Tim Lomas


On his book Translating Happiness: A Cross-Cultural Lexicon of Well-Being

Cover Interview of February 27, 2019


I firmly believe that untranslatable words have the power to uplift and alter our reality in numerous ways. To begin with, they provide a window onto lives in other cultures, revealing something about their traditions, values, and experiences. In this fragmented and divisive age, that kind of empathic connection is vital. But these words are not only valuable in what they tell us about other places, other people. They can also illuminate our own lives, providing us with new language to articulate our experiences. They can even lead us into unglimpsed existential territory, revealing new dimensions of life, of ourselves. So, I would encourage everyone to enquire into this mysterious realm of untranslatability, doing so with a spirit of respect and gratitude for the cultures that created these varied words.

Beyond the book, I hope that readers will take the time to look at the evolving lexicography on my website or on the myriad other website dedicated to this topic. And go further still, chat to people who speak other languages, asking them what discoveries are to be found in their lexicons. You may become transported to new worlds; at the very least you’ll probably have an interesting conversation. Language is a wonderful and mysterious thing, and untranslatable words are among its most profound secrets. A world of discovery awaits.