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(Chronicle Books, 2016)
By Jaye Marsh
Jungian analyst Robert Johnson’s oft-quoted words from his book The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden have stayed with me: “Sanskrit has 96 words for love, ancient Persian has 80, Greek three, and English only one.” Given the English language’s predilection for absorbing new words from many cultures, it still has a paucity of beautiful and concise terms for the eternal and universal concepts of love, pain, and the sublime. In her search for the sublime in language, Yee-Lum Mak created Other-Wordly in which we find “komorebi: the sunlight that filters through the leaves and trees” and “hiraeth: a homesickness for a home which maybe never was”. Mak is from California and currently completing advanced English studies at the University of Edinburgh. Her love of words began when she stumbled across the Portuguese term for “the love that remains” (saudade), which sparked her search for other “strange and lovely” words.
Some words are striking, respectfully highlighting different cultural norms. Others show a sense of humour about the human condition. Two paired Japanese words let us peek at cultural values: “tatemae: what a person pretends to believe” and “honne: what a person truly believes.” A lovely Spanish word describes my favourite activity, “sobremesa: the time spent around the table after dinner talking to the people with whom you shared the meal.” Not wanting to spoil the joy of discovery, I expect most of us in the editorial world can relate to page 13: buying books, hoarding books, books piling up – there are words for that! (more…)