AI reimagines the world’s 20 most beautiful words
How to translate words that cannot be translated?
A number of artificial intelligence models have come out in recent months to turn text into images. Words are the key to this magic, but not all words can be translated. There are wonderful words in various languages that cannot be translated except with complicated periphrases. Can a picture succeed in representing a concept? or a series of concepts? Can artificial intelligence capture the general meaning of an untranslatable word when given a textual representation of it.
I decided for this little experiment to use this list of words considered among the most beautiful in the world and difficult to translate (they have no equivalent in other languages). I then chose an artificial intelligence model (stable diffusion) that takes a textual description as input and returns an image. Highlighted, there is the text I used as input for the model to generate the image (plus some attributes I added to keep the style constant).
It is actually a word composed of two words, Wald (wood) and Einsamkeit (loneliness). Literally it could be translated as “forest solitude,” actually it does not have a negative connotation but a positive one. In fact, it can be translated as “being at one with nature” or even “meditation” and “contemplation.” It is often understood as the feeling of being alone in the woods and at peace with nature.
the feeling of being alone in the woods and also at a peaceful oneness with nature
The Inuit word represents a kind of feeling of anticipation when expecting someone. It is an impatient anticipation, like the need to check the window to make sure they are coming.
feeling that makes you look out the window countless times in hope of seeing your guest arrive
Komorebi in Japanese describes the sun’s rays filtering through the leaves of trees. It is actually a compound term: tree, drip and sun (or day). In a sense it is like saying with one term, the light that rains down on us by filtering through the branches of trees.
the sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees
In Spanish, it literally means “upon the table” and represents the tradition of staying around the table socializing with the people with whom you have shared a meal. Typically, southern European lunches can also be long, especially when you are with family or friends.
time spent after lunch or dinner socializing with the people you shared the meal with
Goya represents when fantasy and reality meet. The word in fact represents the sense of wonder, of suspension of reality when one is captivated by the narrative. It is generally used when we are confronted with something fairy-tale, almost unreal, something that leaves us stunned.
the moment when fantasy is so realistic that it temporarily becomes reality
This word comes from Swedish and represents the moon reflected on water when it appears to create a path that can be reached, a kind of magic road. In fact, this word consists of two words: måne meaning moon, and gata meaning street/road.
the reflection of the moon on water
Saudade is perhaps one of the best known words on the list. it is a word that is part of Lusitanian and Portuguese culture, and today also Brazilian. Etymologically it comes from the Latin solitudo (solitude). It represents a kind of nostalgic, affective memory of a special something/someone, accompanied by a desire to see them again. In a sense, this word is as much about remembering the past as it is about hoping for the future.
the feeling of longing for something or someone you love which is gone
Kiling comes from Filipino culture, and represents the feeling of excitement when something romantic happens (the famous butterflies in the stomach). It also represents the feeling of being flushed that only a certain person can make one feel.
the feeling of butterflies you get in your stomach when something romantic happens
Perhaps the saddest on this list, it represents the feeling of nostalgia and sadness that is associated for someone who is missed. It can also be representing something missing from one’s culture: it is a mixture of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness or an earnest desire for the Wales of the past.
refers to homesickness mixed with sadness for the lost or departed
is a word from the language of the Yamana, an indigenous people of the Land of Fire, and is considered by the Guinness Book of Records to be among the most difficult words to translate. In fact, it represents the act of looking into each other’s eyes hoping that the other person will do something they both long for but neither wants to do first.
meaningful look shared by two people who both want to initiate something, but are both reluctant to
is a Danish word that refers to an intimate moment, something cozy. Defined as a form of intimacy that evokes a feeling of contentment and well-being, it is a difficult concept to explain because it changes from person to person. Many articles on the subject, to explain its meaning, mention items such as candles, hot chocolate, and extra large sweaters, as well as being in the company of loved ones.
a delightfully cozy, intimate moment or thing
is a term born in the nineteenth century (and made famous by Baudelaire) that represents idly wandering the city streets, observing the city and experiencing emotions. Typically, the French refer it to aimlessly strolling the streets of Paris.
strolling the streets of Paris in a leisurely way
ya’aburnee, an Arabic word that literally translated means “you bury me.” It actually means the hope that your loved one will survive you, and that you may not experience the terrible pain of having to live without them.
The hope that our loved ones will live as long as possible.
your hope that your loved one will outlive you, as it would be unbearable to live without them
ré nao is a Chinese word that is usually translated as “lively” or “bustling.” It can also be translated as fun, but it represents a vibrant and special situation where all participants have good time. It could be a party, but also a particularly fun time at work.
A place or situation that is ré nao is not only fun and lively. It also has a special vibe that makes everyone want to be there.
the literal translation is “outdoor lager.” In other words, drinking an outdoor beer. This word is often understood as the act of drinking a beer on a sunny day, but it is also translated as the first beer of the warm season. Of course, it is also the name of a brand of beer (sounds like a good choice).
the act of sitting outside on a sunny day enjoying a beer
It is generally translated as distress (so much so that when I googled it, the first image that came up was Munch’s Scream). This word has many levels of reading; it can also be translated as the strong desire for someone. Or as a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without specific cause (well, Dostoevsky would approve).
a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without specific cause
jijivisha refers to the strong, eternal desire to continue living. In short, it is often used for people who love life, strong emotions.
the strong, eternal desire to live and to continue living
Firgun, is a word derived from Hebrew and is used to represent the joyful feeling that something good has happened to someone. It is also used for empathetic joy toward others.
the feeling of joy that something good has happened, or might happen, to someone else
This Dutch word, depending on the context, can be translated as ‘conviviality’, ‘coziness’, ‘fun’. In general, however, it means an abstract feeling of being comfortable in the company of others.
a convivial, cozy, or warm atmosphere. This can be the warmth of being with loved ones, or the feeling of seeing a friend after a long absence
a Serbian word expresses the sense of wholeness and belonging to the universe, which we feel when we immerse ourselves in the simple beauties of life. A kind of love for the whole universe, when we are able to appreciate the little things, such as the people we love
the feeling of bliss and sense of oneness with the universe that comes from simple pleasures
This is not the first time I have attempted projects with these patterns (I have tried drawing poems or imagining characters from the little prince). Each time I am surprised by the results, sometimes there are images that don’t convince me other times that surprise me.
What do you think? Can artificial intelligence restore in images the so nuanced meaning of these words.
Personally, some of these images caught my curiosity. In fact, for each description the model returns more than one image, and I chose the one that seemed most suitable (sometimes I was undecided, sometimes I went with a safe choice). Which words would you have chosen? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
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