IT’S HOW THOUGHTS ARE ORGANIZED AND IDEAS ARE EXPRESSED (COMMENT). Dick Weisfelder commented on the issue of whether there are words that can’t be translated into another language that “It’s also how you organize thoughts and whether ideas can be stated directly or require complex circumlocutions.” I agree. I think both these thoughts are what Gopnik might consider to be “mild versions of the Whorfian idea”. Gopnik says that the “ghost of Whorf haunts every page of [DICTIONARY OF UNTRANSLATABLES]”. In other words, Whorf keeps showing up in discussing these issues. It’s not surprising that Gopmik provides examples in his review which support these Whorfian thoughts.

How thoughts are organized. Gopnik gives an example of a 1939 French movie in which a concierge gives information to the police about a piece of furniture in a killer’s apartment. In French, he says it’s “une armoire comme toutes les armoires’ (“an armoire like all armoires”). The French is Platonic. Gopnik says that it makes “a categorical point about furniture.” As for the English subtitle for the line, it simply says: “It’s just a regular armoire.”

Whether ideas require complex circumlocution. Gopnik summarizes how the DICTIONARY OF UNTRANSLATABLES discusses the Romanian word “dor”, which means “something more particular and estranged than melancholy, less sentimental and self-indulgent than Weltschmerz”.

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