What’s In a Word

Naoko Hosokawa's areas of study are words and languages. When asked what her favourite word or expression is, she thinks of the term lorem ipsum: the one used in blank documents. In this video, Naoko explains the reason behind it.

Sometimes people take sufferings in exchange for something better. 

Nick: So, for someone who studies the impact of words and language, what is your favourite word? Or what are your favourite words?

Naoko: It is very difficult to choose. So as you say, there was something very, it's like a creature, so it evolves in a way, in an unexpected way and takes some meaning that was not meant to be as you mentioned, in terms of ikigai or the case with refugees as well.

So, as a kind of researcher in this field, I try to take a distance to observe how the words evolved. So I try not to kind of make some personal likings in terms of particular expressions, or particular words. 

But when someone asked me what my favourite word is, jokingly I said lorem ipsum, which is the word that comes up as a blank document. Well, it actually was kind of random, that it is not a language, but it's kind of based on a text written in Latin.

And I find it interesting that actually it was taken from existing Latin documents about discussing the suffering. So lorem ipsum actually comes from the expression that dolorem ipsum, which is a kind of suffering itself. 

And this is part of the text saying, no one likes suffering itself, but in exchange with some greater pleasure, sometimes people take on some sufferings as an exchange, and giving an example of training yourself and going jogging every day, it might be difficult, but in the end, you get stronger, or you get healthier. 

So, you accept the suffering. So, this is the idea originally meant in this Latin text, which was kind of deformed on purpose to mean nothing, and used as a kind of example, the fonts or template of something.

By knowing this origin I find it very interesting that when I see a blank document, a blank presentation, I think, yes, this is a suffering to start writing, but for the satisfaction of writing a good piece, I need to take on this suffering. 

So, in a way I find a meaning behind it. So, it's interesting, and it's a creative word, and it's not a word, but it's used. So in a way, I like this expression.

Nick: Well, I didn't know that. I mean, I'm aware of it, and people use it to fill out websites when they're designing them to show how the text will look like.

So if it means suffering, it almost relates to Buddhism, you know, and yeah, looking for someone who's just finished a book, and I know, you've also finished a writing project, looking at a blank page thinking, ah, how do I write this next chapter, can be quite painful. 

But that experience of overcoming suffering or facing a challenge also relates to ikigai. And ikigai is, I guess, a concept that has all these different perceptions. For many Japanese, it's something small, that might be their pets or their favourite food.

But I guess in the field of research, it has all these associations or connections to positive psychology or existential positive psychology.