The Accidental Writing Prompt Incident on “Quantum Superposition of Different Paths”, a true story
My Adventures with Verisimilitude in Rectifying Human QuantumEntanglement: A flash-nonfiction
So, I’m looking at this book at Barnes and Noble and it’s called My Ultimate Bucket List. In this book, a person can keep track of activities they have actually engaged in over their lifetime, writing down a little about the experience, the date of it, where it was, who they were with, all-in-all, hence, adding it to their bucket list of life experiences. The book has an exhaustive number of pages with numbered activities to look through and then areas to fill in your notes. For example, Activity #1, Go Sky Diving…Activity #50, Experience the Northern Lights. Here are a few more: Activity #151, Kiss a Stranger; Activity #266, Get a book autographed by its Author.
Well, you get the idea.
Now, it just so happens that Activity #95, stopped me abruptly in my casual thumbing through the book as I was taken aback by the activity name: Try to be in two places at the same time.
I was elated, excited, inspired. This is probably the most incidental, yet accidental work I may engage in; that is, I felt that I had run across one of the most fascinating writing prompt ideas in a lifetime. Of course, the entirety of my feelings and emotions were triggered as the words transpired a personal exploration of my thoughts where I needed to just grab a pen as rapidly as possible and just write absolutely all that surfaced for me. I mean, I don’t know about how others might perceive the name of that activity in a light that seems like it should actually be a “thing” to put on your BUCKET LIST (!) of all things. However, I like my idea on where to go with this much better. I would like to express the journey through my mind as I parse through the inspired sparks of memories, sparks of curiosity, and delve deeper into those creative components where my wires are obviously crossed like some Sci Fi junky, …or something;)
Reflecting back on my own childhood, and realizing that as children we usually desire to have a magical or superhero-like power–I think that is prevalent for basically, at least, a majority of people, I have revisited a strong desire and belief that I could, if I believed enough in it, be the extraextraordinary being that every child knows he or she is. So, to further the details, when I was a child, my dream was to be in two places at the same time, strangely enough. I had it all figured out. I could go to school and be sitting in my desk participating in class, but then I could leave my body there and still be me, and go outside and wander off for the rest of the day to go play and do what I really wanted to–but I was still at school functioning like the good student. Childhood dreams are so colorful and still, so disappointing at the same time. I wished and wished I could be in my imaginary world and actually have it happen to me one day. But, of course, it was just a fantasy and I grew up.
However, scientifically, there has been findings to prove that this seemingly “thing that stories are made for” concept is actually worth further investigation because it has been proven, I felt pretty confident, that this has occurred in several situations with quantum particles. My findings are astonishing after coming to the University of Bonn experimental physics abstracts site. It just so happens that at the University of Bonn they have set up a series of experiments to gain findings to understand whether or not objects, like a ball, which always, when thrown, moves in a single trajectory. It can and will always travel in one direction and then land in one place. So, what if, for example, I was to throw a balled up piece of paper in a trash can and it landed both in the trash, and did not land in the trash. Objects can be said to move along a single well-defined path but there has been an eager scientific rigor to refute all of this. It has been proven now in one of this university’s first experiments that Cesium atoms can indeed take 2 paths at the same time, thus an initial proof in the falsification of otherwise believed truths.
Thus, according to Quantum theory, objects in the quantum world can simultaneously take different paths and end up at different places at once. At the quantum size range, matter and energy exist in a state of “blurry flux,”: allowing particles to occupy not only two locations but an infinite number simultaneously.
Anyway, the set of terms, of which there are several to describe this phenomenon, describing this is Quantum Superposition of different paths, also termed, quantum entanglement and perhaps, there are even more recent findings and terminologies used as the world of science is growing at a more than exponential rate hour by hour, not just day by day, in current times.
The most baffling question now to scientists/physicists lies in why the universe seems split into these two separate and irreconcilable realities, where the tiniest components of our world has the ability to do what we, human beings in the macro-reality cannot. I read a question posed: If everything in the universe is made up of quantum material, why don’t we see quantum effects on everyday life?
Well, I am only currently “being” in one place, yet, I must explain that, in my view, personally, I know what being in two places at one time can be in, at least one scenario, that came to mind, though, if given enough time to think about it, I am sure I may be apt to express more exemplary proof for such accomplishments that can be done. I believe we overlook these phenomena in our lives failing to be willing to “think outside the box.”
Going back a few years, I remember a pointed example of, not at all, “trying to be” in two places at once, I “was in” two places at once. This is how I see it, view it, perceive it, believe it…just stay with meL I remember engaging in a Skype conversation with my husband, he in South Carolina, in a living room of a house, and I, in Virginia, sitting on the floor of a bedroom in a house. My physical self spoke and listened and saw from that room in location: VA. I was in VA. I, however, was also, with my husband, simultaneously, talking, listening, seeing him, in his living room in location: SC. Albeit, I was bodily in VA. My digital rendering, which is actually me, not some clone of me, but real-time viewing, basically, a meeting of two people, virtually, some would say, but I disagree. It goes back to the philosophical mind-body brain-in-a-jar conceptualization of all of this so we must ask ourselves, are we our physical, corporeal bodies, or are we our brains sitting over on the table near us over there with the electrodes hooked up to it so my body feels like it’s still in me and that is me…one person…one place of being…not separate.
Conclusively, at least for the meantime, I am content with my findings and my conclusions and I will go ahead and date the bucket list item and note it was with my husband about 5 years ago, my first time, that is, and check it off.
Suffering from a lack of inspiration? Major case of writer’s block? Try these five easy ways to get inspired to write!
Reading. Seeing the characters, concepts, and ideas of other writers can stimulate your own creative juices.
Silence. Too much stress in your life? Take some time out to relax and watch your creativity shine.
Fun. All work and no play makes for dull writing. See friends, go out, have fun – you might just have a memorable experience worth writing about!
Others’ Stories. Go on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, or through your cell phone address book. Ask yourself what interesting things can be fictionalized from your friends’ experiences? A helpful note: If it’s embarrassing to them, change the details to protect your friendship.
Writing Prompts. Still completely baffled? When all else fails, there’s a wealth of writing prompts online.
What do you do when you’re out of ideas? Please share a comment to help other writers in this predicament.
Transgressive fiction is a genre of literature that focuses on characters who feel confined by the norms and expectations of society and who break free of those confines in unusual or illicit ways. Because they are rebelling against the basic norms of society, protagonists of transgressive fiction may seem mentally ill, anti-social, or nihilistic. The genre deals extensively with taboo subject matters such as drugs, sexual activity, violence, incest, pedophilia, and crime. The genre of “transgressive fiction” was defined by Los Angeles Times literary critic Michael Silverblatt. Michel Foucault’s 1963 essay “A Preface to Transgression” also provides an important methodological origin for the concept of transgression in literature. The essay uses Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille as an example of transgressive fiction.Rene Chun, a journalist for The New York Times, described transgressive fiction thus:
A literary genre that graphically explores such topics as incest and other aberrant sexual practices, mutilation, the sprouting of sexual organs in various places on the human body, urban violence and violence against women, drug use, and highly dysfunctional family relationships, and that is based on the premise that knowledge is to be found at the edge of experience and that the body is the site for gaining knowledge.
The genre has been the subject of controversy, and many forerunners of transgressive fiction, including William S. Burroughs and Hubert Selby Jr., have been the subjects of obscenity trials.
Transgressive fiction shares similarities with splatterpunk, noir, and erotic fiction in its willingness to portray forbidden behaviors and shock readers. But it differs in that protagonists often pursue means to better themselves and their surroundings—albeit unusual and extreme ones. Much transgressive fiction deals with searches for self-identity, inner peace, or personal freedom. Unbound by usual restrictions of taste and literary convention, its proponents claim that transgressive fiction is capable of incisive social commentary.
There is also some overlap with literary minimalism, as many transgressive writers use short sentences and simplistic style.
The basic ideas of transgressive fiction are by no means new. Many works that are now considered classics dealt with controversial themes and harshly criticized societal norms. Early examples include the scandalous writing of the Marquis de Sade and the Comte de Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror (1869). French author Émile Zola’s works about social conditions and “bad behavior” are examples, as are Russian Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novels Crime and Punishment (1866) and Notes from Underground (1864) and Norwegian Knut Hamsun’s psychologically-driven Hunger (1890). Sexual extravagance can be seen in two of the earliest European novels, the Satyricon and The Golden Ass, and also (with disclaimers) Moll Flanders and some of the excesses of early Gothic fiction.
Early 20th century writers such as Octave Mirbeau, Georges Bataille, and Arthur Schnitzler, who explored psychosexual development, are also important forebears.
On 6 December 1933, US federal judge John M. Woolsey overturned the federal ban on James Joyce’s Ulysses. The book was banned in the US due to what the government claimed was obscenity, specifically parts of Molly Bloom’s “soliloquy” at the end of the book. Random House Inc. challenged the claim of obscenity in federal court and was granted permission to print the book in the US. Judge Woolsey is often quoted explaining his removal of the ban by saying “It is only with the normal person that the law is concerned.”
In the late 1950s, American publisher Grove Press, under publisher Barney Rosset, began releasing decades-old novels that had been unpublished in most of the English-speaking world for many years due to controversial subject matter. Two of these works, Lady Chatterley’s Lover (D. H. Lawrence’s tale of an upper class woman’s affair with a working class man) and Tropic of Cancer (Henry Miller’s sexual odyssey), were the subject of landmark obscenity trials (Lady Chatterley’s Lover was also tried in the UK and Austria). Both books were ruled not obscene and forced the US courts to weigh the merit of literature that would have once been instantly deemed pornographic (see Miller test). Similarly, the author Vladimir Nabokov published Lolita in 1955 to a great deal of controversy due to the pedophilia that occurs between the book’s main characters, Humbert Humbert and Lolita. The transgressive nature of this subject has made Lolita a book often found on the list of books banned by governments and the list of most commonly challenged books in the United States.
Grove Press also published the explicit works of Beat writers, which led to two more obscenity trials. The first concerned Howl, Allen Ginsberg’s 1955 poem which celebrated American counterculture and decried hypocrisy and emptiness in mainstream society. The second concerned William S. Burroughs’ hallucinatory, satirical novel Naked Lunch (1959). Both works contained what were considered lewd descriptions of body parts and sexual acts. Grove also published Hubert Selby Jr.’s anecdotal novel Last Exit to Brooklyn (1964), known for its gritty portrayals of criminals, prostitutes, and transvestites and its crude, slang-inspired prose. Last Exit to Brooklyn was tried as obscene in the UK. Grove Press won all these trials, and the victories paved the way both for transgressive fiction to be published legally, as well as bringing attention to these works.
In the 1970s and ’80s, an entire underground of transgressive fiction flourished. Its biggest stars included J.G. Ballard, a British writer known for his strange and frightening dystopian novels; Kathy Acker, an American known for her sex-positive feminist fiction; and Charles Bukowski, an American known for his tales of womanizing, drinking, and gambling. The notorious 1971 film version of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, contained scenes of rape and “ultraviolence” by a futuristic youth gang complete with its own argot, and was a major influence on popular culture; it was subsequently withdrawn in the UK, and heavily censored in the US.
In the 1990s, the rise of alternative rock and its distinctly downbeat subculture opened the door for transgressive writers to become more influential and commercially successful than ever before. This is exemplified by the influence of Canadian Douglas Coupland’s 1990 novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, which explored the economically-bleak and apocalypse-fixated worldview of Coupland’s age group. The novel popularized the term generation X to describe this age demographic. Other influential authors of this decade include Bret Easton Ellis, known for novels about depraved yuppies; Irvine Welsh, known for his portrayals of Scotland’s drug-addicted working class youth; and Chuck Palahniuk, known for his characters’ bizarre attempts to escape bland consumer culture. Both of Elizabeth Young’s volumes of literary criticism from this period deal extensively and exclusively with this range of authors and the contexts in which their works can be viewed.
In India, Charu Nivedita’s works are considered transgressive. His novel, Zero Degree is placed on par with William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch.
The early 21st century saw the rise of writers like Rupert Thomson, R D Ronald and Kelly Braffet with their protagonists further pushing the criminal, sexual, violent, narcotic, self-harm, anti-social and mental illness related subject matter taboos from the shadows of the transgressive umbrella into the forefront of mainstream fiction. Ronald’s novels The Elephant Tree and The Zombie Room are based in the fictional city of Garden Heights, providing a fresh, contemporary melting pot to showcase the amalgamation of UK and US cultural and societal dissatisfaction and frustration, that had previously been portrayed very differently.
In the UK, the genre owes a considerable influence to “working class literature”, which often portrays characters trying to escape poverty by inventive means, while in the US, the genre focuses more on middle class characters trying to escape the emotional and spiritual limitations of their lifestyle.
You may need to sign up for a Goodreads account in order to view the extensive list of the top transgressive books (587 books are listed, but if you are interested and if you love to read, like I do, this account (free) is well worth it…so many offerings and keep track of what you have read, receive customized recommended literature, join community forums, win free books in contests, and so much more.
Best Transgressive Fiction
Books that contain depictions of behavior that violates socially acceptable norms, often involving taboo subject matters such as drug use, violence, incest, crime.
The focus is on characters who feel confined by the norms and expectations of society and who break free of those confines in unusual and/or illicit ways. Rebelling against the basic norms of society, the protagonists of transgressive fiction may seem mentally ill, anti-social, or nihilistic.
by Chuck Palahniuk
A Clockwork Orange
by Anthony Burgess
by Bret Easton Ellis
by George Orwell
The Catcher in the Rye
by J.D. Salinger
by Vladimir Nabokov
by Irvine Welsh
The Picture of Dorian Gray
by Oscar Wilde
Invisible Monsters Remix
by Chuck Palahniuk
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
by Hunter S. Thompson
by Albert Camus
by Kurt Vonnegut
by Chuck Palahniuk
Crime and Punishment
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
by Patrick Süskind
by Chuck Palahniuk
Less Than Zero
by Bret Easton Ellis
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
by Ken Kesey
Last Exit to Brooklyn
by Hubert Selby Jr.
by William S. Burroughs
by William S. Burroughs
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)
by Stieg Larsson
Requiem for a Dream
by Hubert Selby Jr.
by Chuck Palahniuk
The Zombie Room
by R.D. Ronald
You must check this page out, & if you’re not a member of Goodreads yet, there is so much to offer for so many.
Still Have Writer’s Block? Another Idea to Think About
Rorschach Inkblot Test
By Jane Framingham, Ph.D.
~ 7 min read
The Rorschach Inkblot Test is a projective psychological test consisting of 10 inkblots printed on cards (five in black and white, five in color) created in 1921 with the publication of Psychodiagnostik by Hermann Rorschach. During the 1940s and 1950s, the test was synonymous with clinical psychology. Throughout much of the 20th century, the Rorschach inkblot test was a commonly used and interpreted psychological test. In surveys in 1947 (Louttit and Browne) and 1961 (Sundberg), for instance, it was the fourth and first, respectively, most frequently used psychological test.
Despite its widespread use, it has also been the center of much controversy. It has often proven to be difficult for researchers to study the test and its results in any systematic manner, and the use of multiple kinds of scoring systems for the responses given to each inkblot has led to some confusion.
History of the Rorschach
Hermann Rorschach did not make it clear where he got the idea from the test. However, like most children of his time, he often played the popular game called Blotto (Klecksographie), which involved creating poem-like associations or playing charades with inkblots. The inkblots could be purchased easily in many stores at the time. It is also thought that a close personal friend and teacher, Konrad Gehring, may have also suggested the use of inkblots as a psychological tool.
When Eugen Bleuler coined the term schizophrenia in 1911, Rorschach took interest and wrote his dissertation about hallucinations (Bleuler was Rorschach’s dissertation chairperson). In his work on schizophrenia patients, Rorschach inadvertently discovered that they responded quite differently to the Blotto game than others. He made a brief report of this finding to a local psychiatric society, but nothing more came of it at the time. It wasn’t until he was established in his psychiatric practice in Russia’s Krombach hospital in Herisau in 1917 that he became interested in systematically studying the Blotto game.
Rorschach used about 40 inkblots in his original studies in 1918 through 1921, but he would administer only about 15 of them regularly to his patients. Ultimately he collected data from 405 subjects (117 non-patients which he used as his control group). His scoring method minimized the importance of content, instead focusing on how to classify responses by their different characteristics. He did this using a set of codes — now called scores — to determine if the response was talking about the whole inkblot (W), for instance, a large detail (D), or a smaller detail. F was used to score for form of the inkblot, and C was used to score whether the response included color.
In 1919 and 1920, he tried to find a publisher for his findings and the 15 inkblot cards he regularly used. However, every published balked at publishing all 15 inkblots because of printing costs. Finally in 1921, he found a publisher — the House of Bircher — willing to publish his inkblots, but only 10 of them. Rorschach reworked his manuscript to include only 10 of the 15 inkblots he most commonly used.
**(You can review the 10 Rorschach inkblots on Wikipedia; the rest of the Wikipedia entry on the Rorschach is full of significant factual errors.) SEE BELOW THIS ARTICLE THE **
The printer, alas, was not very good at being true to the original inkblots. Rorschach’s original inkblots had no shading to them — they were all solid colors. The printer’s reproduction of them added shading. Rorschach reportedly was actually quite pleased with the introduction of this new addition to his inkblots. After publishing his monograph with the inkblots, entitled a Form Interpretation Test, he died in 1922 after being admitted to a hospital for abdominal pains. Rorschach was only 37 years old and had been formally working on his inkblot test just four years.
The Rorschach Scoring Systems
Prior to the 1970s, there were five primary scoring systems for how people responded to the inkblots. They were dominated by two — the Beck and the Klopfer systems. Three other that were used less often were the Hertz, Piotrowski and the Rapaport-Schafer systems. In 1969, John E. Exner, Jr. published the first comparison of these five systems entitled The Rorschach Systems.
The findings of Exner’s ground-breaking analysis were that there actually weren’t five scoring systems for the Rorschach. He concluded that the five systems differed so dramatically and significantly, it was as if five uniquely different Rorschach tests had been created. It was time to go back to the drawing board.
Given Exner’s disturbing findings, he decided to undertake the creation of a new, comprehensive Rorschach scoring system that would take into account the best components of these five existing systems, combined with extensive empirical research on each component. A foundation was established in 1968 and the significant research began into creating a new scoring system for the Rorschach. The result was that in 1973, Exner published the first edition of The Rorschach: A Comprehensive System. In it, he laid out the new scoring system that would become the new gold standard (and the only scoring system now taught).
What the Rorschach Measures
The Rorschach Inkblot test was not originally intended to be a projective measure of personality. Instead, it was meant to produce a profile of people with schizophrenia (or other mental disorders) based upon score frequencies. Rorschach himself was skeptical of his test being used as a projective measure.
The Rorschach is, at its most basic level, a problem-solving task that provides a picture of the psychology of the person taking it, and some level of understanding the person’s past and future behavior. Imagination is involved most often in the embellishment of a response, but the basic process of the task has little to do with imagination or creativity.
How the Rorschach Works
A person is shown an inkblot printed on a card and asked, “What might this be?” The responses are usually recorded verbatim (nowadays often with a recording device), because they will be later scored by the psychologist.
Exner broke down how a person responds to an inkblot into three primary phases. In phase 1, the person looks at the card while their brain encodes the stimulus (inkblot) and all its parts. They then classify the stimulus and its parts and an informal rank ordering occurs in the brain of potential responses. In phase 2, the person discards potential answers that aren’t ranked well, and censor other responses they think may be inappropriate. In phase 3, they select some of the remaining responses by reason of traits, styles, or other influences.
If a person responds to common contours of a blot, Exner theorized there was little projection going on. However, when a person starts to embellish on their answer or adding more information than they originally provided, it can be a sign that projection is now occurring. That is, the person is telling the examiner something about themselves or their lives, because they are going well beyond the features of the inkblot itself.
Once a person cycles through the 10 inkblots once and tells the psychologist what they saw in each inkblot, the psychologist will then take the person through each inkblot again, asking the person who is taking the test to help the psychologist see what they saw in their original responses. This is where the psychologist will get into some detail to clearly understand what and where a person has seen various aspects in each inkblot.
The Scoring of the Rorschach
The scoring of the Rorschach inkblot test is complex and requires extensive training and experience in administering the test. Only psychologists are properly trained and have the experience necessary to correctly interpret test results. Therefore any generic “inkblot test” you may take online or administered by another professional may be of little use or validity.
The Exner scoring system examines every aspect of the response — from how much of the inkblot is used, to what story is told about the response (if any), to the level of detail and type of content is offered about the inkblot. Scoring begins by examining the developmental quality of the response — that is, how well synthesized, ordinary, vague or arbitrary the response is.
The core of scoring revolves around coding the response according to all of the blot features that have contributed to the formation of the response. The following characteristics are coded:
Form Movement – when any movement occurred in the response Chromatic Color – when color is used in the response Achromatic Color – when black, white or grays are used in the response Shading-texture – when texture is used in the response Shading-dimension – when dimension is used in the response with reference to shading Shading-diffuse – when shading is used in the response Form dimension – when dimension is used in the response without reference to shading Pairs and reflections – when a pair or reflection is used in the response
Because many people respond to the inkblots in a complicated, detailed way, the scoring system uses the concept of “blends” to account for complex answers that take into account multiple objects or the way used to describe the object. Organizational activity of the response assesses how well-organized the response is. Last, form quality is assessed — that is, how well the response fits the inkblot (according to how the person taking the test describes it). If an inkblot looks like a bear, and a person describes it as a bear, this might take an “ordinary” form quality — perfectly acceptable, but not especially creative or imaginative.
There are, of course, many popular responses for inkblots that look like some object or creature in real life. The Exner scoring system takes this into account by providing extensive tables for each card about common responses and how they might be coded.
Once each card’s responses is properly coded by a psychologist, an interpretative report is formulated based upon the responses’ scoring. The interpretative report seeks to integrate the findings from across all the responses on the test, so that one outlying response is not likely to impact the overall test’s findings.
The psychologist will first examine the validity of the test, stress tolerance and the amount of resources that available to the individual being examined versus the demands being made upon the individual at this time.
Next, the psychologist will examine the cognitive operations of the individual, their perceptual accuracy, flexibility of ideas and attitudes, their ability to temper and control their emotions, goal orientation, self-concept and interest and relationships with others. There are also a number of special indices that are used less often to determine suicidal ideation, depression, schizophrenia and other concerns. Usually these things can be more quickly assessed through a clinical interview, but might help to flesh out areas of concern in an individual where some questions remain.
* * *
The Rorschach is not some magical insight into a person’s soul. What it is is an empirically-sound, projective testing measure that has been backed up with nearly four decades of modern research (on top of the existing four decades since the test’s publication in 1921). Through asking people to express what they see in a simple set of ten inkblots, people can often show a little bit more of themselves than their conscious selves may have intended — leading to better insights into the underlying motivations of the person’s current issues and behaviors.
“Check-…,” he almost said, as she carefully pushed his king on it’s side with her forefinger.
Then, moved her rook in place, just The Place.
“Uh, sorry,” she uttered in a weak voice. “Now, that IS CheckMate… CheckMate.”
He looked over at the face of his lifelong love and she was blue with transparent skin of which all color had faded. Her icyclic tears froze as he watched her slip suddenly into the check-mate of all her check-mates.
After all the years of his forgetting her…how beautiful she is, he realized once again.
He watched her in shock and disbelief as she took one last shallow breath, then one word, she wish he had wished to hear and understand for so long and she had tried to let him in but he never wanted to talk about anything with her. She could not be shut up by him this time.
He was frozen in shock at what was happening before him that he wanted to believe was an act, an exaggeration, a display to get his attention.
Then, the word from her lips, out like a roaring whisper:
“Toska*,” she managed to tell him and the game was over. He realized when she lay there so beautiful, unmoving.
He looked at the game’s board where his king had been put in checkmate. As no other game he had played before, this was one of which there was no ‘do-over.’ Never before in his life had he yearned so greatly, to reach for the restart button like he did now.
“Toska – noun /ˈtō-skə/ – Russian word roughly translated as sadness, melancholia, lugubriousness.
“No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”― Vladimir Nabokov
tags: definition-untranslatable-words Read more quotes from Vladimir Nabokov
I just happened to run across the word toska for the first time when I came across this site:
HERE ARE A FEW instances where other languages have found the right word and English simply falls speechless.
1. Toska (yes, it was number one, and when I read this, I nearly cried knowing of this existential crisis of which I had never seen explained so utterly remarkable and with such lovely eloquence.) THIS WORD NOW LIVES DEEP IN MY GUT…I wish for this one word to be all that is engraved on a site as a reminder of my existence one day.
Russian – Vladmir Nabokov describes it best: “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody or something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”
Yagan (indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego) – “The wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start.” (Altalang.com)
Indonesian – “A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh.” (Altalang.com)
Inuit – “To go outside to check if anyone is coming.” (Altalang.com)
Czech – Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, remarked that, “As for the meaning of this word, I have looked in vain in other languages for an equivalent, though I find it difficult to imagine how anyone can understand the human soul without it.” The closest definition is a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.
Japanese – “A mother who relentlessly pushes her children toward academic achievement.” (Altalang.com)
Scottish – The act of hestitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name. (Altalang.com)
Tshiluba (Southwest Congo) – A word famous for its untranslatability, most professional translators pinpoint it as the stature of a person “who is ready to forgive and forget any first abuse, tolerate it the second time, but never forgive nor tolerate on the third offense.” (Altalang.com)
Czech – This word means to call a mobile phone and let it ring once so that the other person will call back, saving the first caller money. In Spanish, the phrase for this is “Dar un toque,” or, “To give a touch.” (Altalang.com)
Brazilian Portuguese – “The act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair.” (Altalang.com)
German – Translated literally, this word means “gate-closing panic,” but its contextual meaning refers to “the fear of diminishing opportunities as one ages.” (Altalang.com)
Japanese – Much has been written on this Japanese concept, but in a sentence, one might be able to understand it as “a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.” (Altalang.com)
French – The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country.
German – Quite famous for its meaning, which somehow other languages have neglected to emulate, this refers to the feeling of pleasure derived by seeing another’s misfortune. I guess “America’s Funniest Moments of Schadenfreude” just didn’t have the same ring to it.
Pascuense (Easter Island) – Hopefully this isn’t a word you’d need often: “the act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them.” (Altalang.com)
Danish – Its “literal” translation into English gives connotations of a warm, friendly, cozy demeanor, but it’s unlikely that these words truly capture the essence of a hyggelig; it’s something that must be experienced to be known. I think of good friends, cold beer, and a warm fire. (Altalang.com)
17. L’appel du vide
French – “The call of the void” is this French expression’s literal translation, but more significantly it’s used to describe the instinctive urge to jump from high places.
Arabic – Both morbid and beautiful at once, this incantatory word means “You bury me,” a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them.
Spanish – While originally used to describe a mythical, spritelike entity that possesses humans and creates the feeling of awe of one’s surroundings in nature, its meaning has transitioned into referring to “the mysterious power that a work of art has to deeply move a person.” There’s actually a nightclub in the town of La Linea de la Concepcion, where I teach, named after this word. (Altalang.com)
Portuguese – One of the most beautiful of all words, translatable or not, this word “refers to the feeling of longing for something or someone that you love and which is lost.” Fado music, a type of mournful singing, relates to saudade. (Altalang.com)
This post was originally published on October 9, 2010.