One of my favorite things about languages is that each one has found a way to convey the same thing. It’s as if God gave out a quiz and got back thousands of different answers, all of which adequately answered the question “How do you say <insert universal idea here>?” We have a finite number of things to say as human beings—only what is in our experience. And yet we’ve come up with millions of ways of saying just about everything.
However, some answers are better than others. I, as God (this is probably blasphemous), would personally grade the answers based on clarity, efficiency, beauty, and simplicity. For instance, English beats out Japanese in the efficiency category with “have to go.” The Japanese prefer, “ikanakerebanarimasen,” which in turn beats out English in the fun-to-say category. And so on.
My theory is that all languages pull even eventually, but I’m not actually God so I’ll probably have to wait a while for reliable judgment on that account. In the meantime, I like to dabble in vocabulary comparisons. In every language there are gaps—words we don’t have. Cracked.com gives a nice little list of a few English lacks here, but I’d like to supply us with one more:
Jeong is the loving tolerance two people have for the things they can’t stand about each other based on a long and trusting relationship. So when Grandma leaves her shoes in the middle of the doorway—which drives Grandpa nuts—and Grandpa leaves the jelly out of the fridge—which has been a bone of contention since day five in the marriage—they both hardly take notice except to scoot the shoes to one side or cap the jelly lid and slot it into the refrigerator door on the way to the living room. Jeong.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about things I require from the books I read. I think jeong is one of those things: I love reading about it, I love seeing it in my parents’ marriage, and I think it’s one of the most beautiful things on this earth. I’m not entirely certain jeong is something we can strive toward, but just as with faith, hope, and love, I eagerly desire this great gift.