October 17, 2013 | Review Period
Other languages seem less fussy than English about degrees of aesthetic appeal.
As I continue to review Portuguese, Spanish, German, French, and Italian for my New York City Marathon volunteering duties next month, I keep thinking that some languages seem oddly undiscriminating about how aesthetically pleasing things really are.
The Marathon Signs Are Up in Central Park!
In English, “beautiful” and “pretty” seem pretty far apart to me. Beauty has set many a soul on fire, whereas from my point of view “pretty” means pleasant to look at.
I am redoing a German Pimsleur lesson right now in which “beautiful church” has just been translated as schöne Kirche. I would also translate “pretty church” that way. Schöne seems to cover a much broader aesthetic range in German than either “beautiful” or “pretty” covers in English.
If any Germans happen to travel through this page and feel inclined to comment, I would be interested to know your thoughts on this point.
The same issue arises for me in Italian. Bello seems to run the range from “pretty” to “beautiful,” and I find that confusing. Is the building I am reading about beautiful or is it just pretty?
I need to know! Exactly how much should I be admiring it in my imagination?
This murkiness applies to Italian temperature, too. When I am asked to translate “It is warm” into Italian, I go for Fa caldo. That is apparently right.
When I am asked to translate “It is hot” into Italian, I go for Fa caldo as well. That is apparently also right.
How can that be? How can pretty equal beautiful, and how can warm equal hot?
Reality is messy.