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TEDxBerkeley

John Koenig: Beautiful new words to describe obscure emotions

John Koenig: Hermosas palabras nuevas para describir emociones oscuras.

February 6, 2016

A John Koenig le encanta encontrar palabras que expresen nuestros sentimientos no manifestados, como "lachesism," hambre de desastre, y "sonder," el reconocimiento que las vidas de todos los demás son tan complejas y desconocidas como la nuestra. En esta charla, él medita sobre el significado que damos a las palabras y cómo estos significados se aferran a nosotros.

John Koenig - Writer
John Koenig is writing an original dictionary of made-up words. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
Hoy quiero hablar del
significado de las palabras,
00:12
Today I want to talk
about the meaning of words,
cómo las definimos,
00:16
how we define them
y cómo, casi como en venganza,
00:17
and how they, almost as revenge,
ellas nos definen.
00:20
define us.
El idioma inglés es una gran esponja.
00:21
The English language
is a magnificent sponge.
Amo el inglés y me encanta hablarlo.
00:24
I love the English language.
I'm glad that I speak it.
Pero por todo ello,
tiene muchos vacíos.
00:27
But for all that, it has a lot of holes.
En griego, existe la palabra "lachesism"
00:30
In Greek, there's a word, "lachesism"
que es "hambre de desastre".
00:32
which is the hunger for disaster.
Como cuando ven
una tormenta en el horizonte
00:36
You know, when you see
a thunderstorm on the horizon
y la alientan.
00:40
and you just find yourself
rooting for the storm.
En mandarín, tiene la palabra "yù yī"
00:43
In Mandarin, they have a word "yù yī" --
(No lo pronuncio bien)
00:45
I'm not pronouncing that correctly --
que significa la nostalgia
de sentir de forma intensa
00:47
which means the longing
to feel intensely again
como cuando eran niños.
00:51
the way you did when you were a kid.
En polaco, tienen la palabra "jouska"
00:55
In Polish, they have a word "jouska"
que es un tipo de conversación hipotética
00:58
which is the kind of
hypothetical conversation
que compulsivamente tienes en tu cabeza.
01:02
that you compulsively
play out in your head.
Y en alemán, por supuesto,
01:06
And finally, in German,
of course in German,
tienen la palabra "zielschmerz"
01:09
they have a word called "zielschmerz"
que es el miedo a
obtener lo que quieres.
01:12
which is the dread
of getting what you want.
(Risas)
01:15
(Laughter)
Finalmente cumpliendo
un sueño de toda la vida.
01:19
Finally fulfilling a lifelong dream.
Soy alemán y sé cómo se siente.
01:23
I'm German myself,
so I know exactly what that feels like.
No estoy seguro
si usaría alguna de estas palabras
01:26
Now, I'm not sure
if I would use any of these words
en mi día a día,
01:29
as I go about my day,
01:31
but I'm really glad they exist.
pero me alegra que existan.
Pero la única razón de que existan
es que yo las inventé.
01:33
But the only reason they exist
is because I made them up.
Soy autor del
"Diccionario de Penas Oscuras",
01:37
I am the author of "The Dictionary
of Obscure Sorrows,"
que he estado escribiendo
durante los últimos 7 años.
01:40
which I've been writing
for the last seven years.
Y toda la meta del proyecto
01:43
And the whole mission of the project
es encontrar vacíos
en el lenguaje de las emociones
01:45
is to find holes
in the language of emotion
y procurar llenarlos
01:51
and try to fill them
para tener una forma de hablar
sobre todos los pecadillos humanos
01:52
so that we have a way of talking
about all those human peccadilloes
y extravaganzas
de la condiciòn humana
01:56
and quirks of the human condition
que creemos sentir,
pero no pensamos discutir
01:58
that we all feel
but may not think to talk about
porque no tenemos
las palabras apropiadas.
02:02
because we don't have the words to do it.
A la mitad del proyecto,
02:05
And about halfway through this project,
definí "sonder",
02:07
I defined "sonder,"
la idea en la que todos
nos consideramos protagonistas
02:09
the idea that we all think of ourselves
as the main character
y los demás son extras.
02:12
and everyone else is just extras.
Pero en realidad,
todos somos los protagonistas
02:15
But in reality,
we're all the main character,
y tú mismo eres un extra
en la historia de otro.
02:18
and you yourself are an extra
in someone else's story.
Tan pronto lo publiqué,
02:22
And so as soon as I published that,
tuve muchas respuestas del público
02:26
I got a lot of response from people
diciendo "Gracias por nombrar
algo que sentí toda mi vida,
02:27
saying, "Thank you for giving voice
to something I had felt all my life
pero no sabìa como llamarlo".
02:32
but there was no word for that."
Los hizo menos solitarios.
02:35
So it made them feel less alone.
Es el poder de las palabras
02:37
That's the power of words,
para sentirnos menos solos.
02:40
to make us feel less alone.
Y al poco tiempo después
empecé a notar que "sonder"
02:44
And it was not long after that
02:45
that I started to notice sonder
02:47
being used earnestly
in conversations online,
se estaba usando en
conversaciones en línea,
y no mucho después de notarlo,
02:52
and not long after I actually noticed it,
lo escuché en una conversación real.
02:55
I caught it next to me
in an actual conversation in person.
No hay sentimiento más raro
que inventar una palabra
02:58
There is no stranger feeling
than making up a word
y luego verla asumir una mente propia.
03:01
and then seeing it
take on a mind of its own.
No tengo palabra
para esto aún, pero la tendré
03:05
I don't have a word
for that yet, but I will.
03:07
(Laughter)
(Risas)
Estoy en ello.
03:08
I'm working on it.
Empecé a pensar sobre
qué hace real a las palabras
03:11
I started to think
about what makes words real,
porque muchos me preguntan,
03:15
because a lot of people ask me,
03:16
the most common thing
I got from people is,
lo más comùn que me dicen es:
"Bueno, ¿estas palabras son inventadas?
De hecho no entiendo".
03:19
"Well, are these words made up?
I don't really understand."
Y no supe qué decirles
porque cuando "sonder" despegó
03:22
And I didn't really know what to tell them
03:24
because once sonder started to take off,
no podìa decir qué palabras
son o no reales.
03:26
who am I to say what words
are real and what aren't.
Así me sentí como Steve Jobs
describiendo su epifanía,
03:29
And so I sort of felt like Steve Jobs,
who described his epiphany
cuando vio que muchos de
nosotros en nuestro día a día
03:34
as when he realized that most of us,
as we go through the day,
tratamos de evitar golpearnos
con las paredes a menudo
03:37
we just try to avoid
bouncing against the walls too much
y completamos nuestros deberes.
03:40
and just sort of get on with things.
Pero cuando te das cuenta que la gente,
03:43
But once you realize that people --
que este mundo fue hecho por personas
no más inteligentes que tú,
03:48
that this world was built
by people no smarter than you,
puedes estirar tu mano
y tocar esas paredes
03:51
then you can reach out
and touch those walls
y aun atraversarlas con tus manos
03:54
and even put your hand through them
y ver que tienes el poder
de lograr cambios.
03:55
and realize that you have
the power to change it.
Cuando me preguntan,
"¿Son reales estas palabras?"
03:58
And when people ask me,
"Are these words real?"
Tenía varias respuestas que ensayé.
04:02
I had a variety of answers
that I tried out.
Algunas con sentido. Otras no.
04:04
Some of them made sense.
Some of them didn't.
Pero una que probé fue:
04:06
But one of them I tried out was,
"Bueno, es real si quieres que lo sea".
04:08
"Well, a word is real
if you want it to be real."
Como este camino es real porque
la gente desea que esté ahí.
04:12
The way that this path is real
because people wanted it to be there.
(Risas)
04:16
(Laughter)
Sucede en universidades
todo el tiempo.
04:17
It happens on college
campuses all the time.
Se llama "camino de deseo".
04:20
It's called a "desire path."
(Risas)
04:21
(Laughter)
Pero concluí, lo que
realmente preguntaban,
04:22
But then I decided,
what people are really asking
cuando preguntan si la palabra
es real, quieren saber
04:24
when they're asking if a word is real,
they're really asking,
"¿A cuántas mentes
tendré acceso con ella?"
04:27
"Well, how many brains
will this give me access to?"
Porque creo que se parece mucho
a cómo vemos al lenguaje.
04:32
Because I think that's
a lot of how we look at language.
Una palabra es en esencia una llave
04:35
A word is essentially a key
que nos adentra en
las cabezas de la gente.
04:38
that gets us into certain people's heads.
Y si entramos a una cabeza,
04:41
And if it gets us into one brain,
no vale la pena,
04:44
it's not really worth it,
no sirve saberla.
04:46
not really worth knowing.
Dos cerebros, depende de quiénes son.
04:47
Two brains, eh, it depends on who it is.
Un millón de cerebros, bien, está bien.
04:49
A million brains, OK, now we're talking.
Una palabra real es la que te da acceso
a tantas mentes como puedas.
04:52
And so a real word is one that gets you
access to as many brains as you can.
Por eso vale la pena saberla.
04:59
That's what makes it worth knowing.
Luego, la palabra más real
con esta medida es esta:
05:02
Incidentally, the realest word of all
by this measure is this.
O.K.
05:06
[O.K.]
Eso es.
05:08
That's it.
Tenemos la más real.
05:09
The realest word we have.
Es lo más cerca a
una llave maestra.
05:10
That is the closest thing we have
to a master key.
Es la palabra
más comprendida en el mundo,
05:13
That's the most commonly
understood word in the world,
sin importar donde estés.
05:16
no matter where you are.
El problema es que
05:17
The problem with that is,
nadie parece saber
lo que esas dos letras significan.
05:18
no one seems to know
what those two letters stand for.
05:21
(Laughter)
(Risas)
Lo que es algo raro, ¿no?
05:23
Which is kind of weird, right?
Creo que podría ser
un error de "todo correcto"
05:25
I mean, it could be a misspelling
of "all correct," I guess,
o "viejo gancho".
05:29
or "old kinderhook."
Nadie parece saberlo, pero
que en realidad no importa
05:30
No one really seems to know,
but the fact that it doesn't matter
dice algo de cómo damos
significado a las palabras.
05:34
says something about
how we add meaning to words.
Este no está
en las mismas palabras.
05:37
The meaning is not
in the words themselves.
Somos quienes
les ponemos algo nuestro.
05:41
We're the ones
that pour ourselves into it.
Pienso que cuando estamos
buscando sentido en nuestras vidas,
05:45
And I think, when we're all searching
for meaning in our lives,
y buscando sentido a la vida,
05:49
and searching for the meaning of life,
pienso que las palabras
tienen que ver en ello.
05:51
I think words have
something to do with that.
Creo que si estás buscando
el significado de algo,
05:55
And I think if you're looking
for the meaning of something,
el diccionario es el lugar para empezar.
05:58
the dictionary is a decent place to start.
Da un sentido de orden
06:01
It brings a sense of order
a un universo muy caótico.
06:03
to a very chaotic universe.
Nuestra visión de las cosas
es tan limitada
06:06
Our view of things is so limited
que debemos inventar
patrones y abreviaturas
06:09
that we have to come up
with patterns and shorthands
y tratar de descubrir
una forma de interpretarla
06:12
and try to figure out
a way to interpret it
y poder seguir con tu día.
06:14
and be able to get on with our day.
necesitamos palabras
que nos incluyan, que nos definan.
06:17
We need words to contain us,
to define ourselves.
Creo que muchos nos sentimos encasillados
06:21
I think a lot of us feel boxed in
por cómo usamos estas palabras.
06:24
by how we use these words.
Olvidamos que son inventadas.
06:25
We forget that words are made up.
No solo mis palabras.
Todas son inventadas,
06:28
It's not just my words.
All words are made up,
pero no todas significan algo.
06:31
but not all of them mean something.
Estamos como atrapados
en nuestro léxico
06:33
We're all just sort of
trapped in our own lexicons
que casi no nos relacionamos
con gente que no es ya como nosotros
06:37
that don't necessarily correlate
with people who aren't already like us,
y pienso que nos estamos distanciando
un poco más año a año,
06:42
and so I think I feel us drifting apart
a little more every year,
Cuando más en serio
tomamos las palabras.
06:47
the more seriously we take words.
Recuerden, las palabras no son reales.
06:51
Because remember, words are not real.
No tienen significado. Nosotros sí.
06:55
They don't have meaning. We do.
Y quiero dejarlos con una lectura
06:58
And I'd like to leave you with a reading
07:01
from one of my favorite philosophers,
de uno de mis filósofos favoritos,
Bill Watterson, creador de
"Calvin y Hobbes".
07:04
Bill Watterson, who created
"Calvin and Hobbes."
Él dijo,
07:06
He said,
"Crear una vida que refleje
tus valores y satisfaga tu alma
07:08
"Creating a life that reflects
your values and satisfies your soul
es un logro poco común.
07:12
is a rare achievement.
Inventar el significado de tu propia vida
07:14
To invent your own life's meaning
no es fácil,
07:16
is not easy,
pero aun está permitido,
07:18
but it is still allowed,
y piensa que serás
más feliz por el esfuerzo".
07:20
and I think you'll be
happier for the trouble."
Gracias.
07:23
Thank you.
(Aplausos)
07:24
(Applause)
Translator:Giancarlo Castelo

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John Koenig - Writer
John Koenig is writing an original dictionary of made-up words.

Why you should listen

John Koenig has spent the last seven years writing an original dictionary of made-up words, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, which fills gaps in the language with hundreds of new terms for emotions. This project seeks to restore sadness to its original meaning (from Latin satis, "fullness") by defining moments of melancholy that we may all feel, but never think to mention -- deepening our understanding of each other by broadening the emotional palette, from avenoir, "the desire to see memories in advance," to zenosyne, "the sense that time keeps going faster."

Each entry is a collage of word roots borrowed from languages all around the world. Some entries are even beginning to enter the language outright:

sonder n. The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own -- populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness -- an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you'll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

His original YouTube series, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, which he writes, edits and narrates himself, has drawn acclaim from John Green and Beyoncé to Michael from Vsauce. "Each episode is a soothing meditation on its subject, fortified by a hypnotic soundtrack and Koenig’s twistingly intelligent narration," writes The Daily Dot.

He currently works as a freelance video editor, voice actor, graphic designer, illustrator, photographer, director and writer. His writing has been published in countless tattoos, stories, song titles and band names, but never on paper -- though he is currently working on publishing a book adaptation. Originally from Minnesota and Geneva, Switzerland, John lives in Budapest with his wife.

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