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On the television the other day, there were some people talking about how the word 「しっとり」 applied to food can't be translated exactly into other languages. It seems that 「しっとり」 could be translated into "moist" when talking about a cake for example, we say a cake is "moist". Are the TV people right that 「しっとり」 is untranslatable?

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According to the search on cookpad, at the moment「しっとり」has the hit of 51,369 menus.

For instance, "Gateau chocolate" :「しっとり濃厚★ガトーショコラ」, "Chocolate cookie" :「 バレンタイン♡しっとり生チョコクッキー 」, "Chicken Ham" :「しっとり鳥胸ハム」, "Banana Cake" :「しっとりバナナケーキ」, "Tofu Donuts" :「しっとり簡単豆腐ドーナツ」, "Rice flour crepe" :「もちもち&しっとり米粉クレープ」, etc.

If the texture of food is "moist", you can safely use it to any kinds of food.

I am not sure why they said that the word is untranslatable. Unless the food is the thing which you can not eat outside Japan or hard to find, it should be translatable.

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In my opinion, calling しっとり untranslatable in the context of food is a rather flippant exaggeration. The English word 'moist' is a perfectly good translation in many cases. It is common to describe a cake as 'moist', invoking the idea of it being soft or luscious. しっとり has a similar sense of a high moisture content giving the food item a pleasing feeling in the mouth.

To be honest, I would say there are very few (if any) untranslatable words in any language. If you insist on having a one-word to one-word correspondence, then maybe you could argue there are words which have no counterpart in other languages. But who is insisting on that? Language is such a flexible thing that concepts can generally be rendered easily into other languages.

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  • But there is also しっとりチョコ, I'm not sure how to translate that into English. – Ben Feb 9 at 23:05
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    +1 more too for the comment about translatability -- any claim that XYZ word is untranslatable is usually made by someone who doesn't understand language very well, or who is using a very narrow definition for "translate". – Eiríkr Útlendi Feb 10 at 15:54
  • @Ben What's wrong with 'moist chocolate'? Sounds fine to me. Instead, you could use something like 'velvety', 'oozy', 'soft', 'luscious', etc, depending on the specific product. – kandyman Feb 11 at 0:31
  • This: google.com/… – Ben Feb 11 at 7:32

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