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In the sentence:

もしにおいを説明するのに、「いい香り」と「臭い」しか言葉がなかったら寂しい。

I'm confused by the use of 寂しい. My interpretation of the general meaning of the sentence is:

Even if you explain/describe a smell, only having the words いい香り and 臭い to use makes your explanation limited.

But I wouldn't have thought 寂しい could be used to imply an insufficiency of something (in this case, vocabulary, for the purpose of expressing something). Am I on the right track?

2 Answers 2

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Using 寂しい in this way is common. "Makes your explanation limited" is probably too objective as a translation of 寂しい. This 寂しい refers to a speakers subjective impression, and it means "I would feel I'm missing something". Of course the author is trying to share his/her feelings with the readers here, but basically this 寂しい is his/her own feelings.

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I'd translate it to be: "It'd be sad to only have the words いい香り and 臭い...". In the sense that having only two words to describe smells would be a lonely or desolate set of vocabulary.

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