Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Hopeless Language Games

Hopeless in French is désespoir, a hint more desperate than hopeless. The English word connotes some hope left behind, the French means hope taken, as one denudes a forest of trees. The former is a tad gentler than the latter. Hope-less does not mean hope-none. I suspect the English word despair comes from désespoir.

Hopeless is a noun and an adjective. The French is désesperé, very close to the English desperate. They say that French is more abstract, the romantic lacking the precision and rationality of the germanic. In French, one says things in a roundabout manner, it takes a little longer to arrive at a point. It is true that when one translates something to or from either language, the English version is almost always shorter. But what can be more blunt than despair and desperate?

Filipino does not have a direct equivalent of hopeless, so we append the negative ‘wala.’ Because the verb and the adjective is the same phrase – walang pag-asa – it feels as though the expression is more complete, a conclusion. Hopeless and désespoir are conditions, that is, conditional on something else. Walang pag-asa, in contrast, does not connote conditionality, at least not to the same degree as the other two. Not a condition but a decision.