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Translating them into English is like ripping the sea-snail out of its magnificent shell and exposing it as a moist, palpitating little gastropod.

How poetical!


... is there really such a long historical process which adds more and more meaning and connotation to such words? I'm not convinced of that.

I prefer to think of such words as empty shells which lost their living content a long time ago. It's their emptiness which makes such words so attractive for rulers, politicians and religious leaders of all ages. They can take the shell and fill it with whatever they want.

It's their emptiness which makes the common man shiver. He sees the shell but he can't quite get the content. He feels inferior and tries to fill the emptiness with his imagination. So it's his imagination which makes the shell spectacular and magnificent – not a historical process.

And it's the emptiness which makes such words untranslatable. Because the value is not inside (nor the shell itself). The value is given by the way the shell is handled. It's a big difference if a shell is seen like a common thing which you throw away when you don't need it anymore. Or if it's handled like something very very precious which nobody is allowed to handle with disrespect.

(Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon would be a good start to deepen such contemplation.)

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