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  1. #1

    Default How Language Limits Our Ability to Describe Smells

    M. Leona Godin joins host Catherine Nichols to discuss Helen Keller’s 1908 book The World I Live In.

    https://lithub.com/how-language-limi...scribe-smells/
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  2. #2
    hednic's Avatar
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    Default Re: How Language Limits Our Ability to Describe Smells

    Thanks for the link
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  3. #3

    Default Re: How Language Limits Our Ability to Describe Smells

    I've often thought that the classification of fragrances has held us back. Not only are they nearly useless today -- with woody ambers nearly everything can be considered oriental today, and chypres aren't chypres, so anything can be called, and is called, a chypre -- but I believe even thinking in that creative box when crafting a perfume would impede.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: How Language Limits Our Ability to Describe Smells

    I have personally found it difficult to find the right language to describe smells on many occasions.

  5. #5

    Default Re: How Language Limits Our Ability to Describe Smells

    Thank you for sharing.
    As correctly pointed out, perhaps even more so considering like correctly pointed out-that not only fragrance tastes are constantly changing and evolving, but also that several words in several languages describing certain exotic notes, trends, ingredients etc. can at best only partially be translated and/or defined.
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: How Language Limits Our Ability to Describe Smells

    I keep looking for new ways to rephrase 'cloying sweet'.
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: How Language Limits Our Ability to Describe Smells

    Thanks for the link.

  8. #8

    Default Re: How Language Limits Our Ability to Describe Smells

    Rather than trying to describe their scent I often just stop and smell the roses. The world is a place of marvel. We can all too easily be afflicted with ‘Too many mind’.
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  9. #9
    Frag Bomber 1st Squadron
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    Default Re: How Language Limits Our Ability to Describe Smells

    I choose to see it differently though. These ‘limitations’ actually force us to get creative in describing a fragrance as an almost a living entity, changing with elapsed time, humidity, temperature, volume of application, etc. We had to borrow descriptions from other sensory experiences and they all add up to a richer tapestry. It’s somewhat similar to describing music - breaking it down into component notes won’t do justice to a symphony.

  10. #10

    Default Re: How Language Limits Our Ability to Describe Smells

    I do stumble upon this when using different languages to describe fragrances.
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  11. #11

    Default Re: How Language Limits Our Ability to Describe Smells

    Sometimes in trying to describe smells or art of any kind there are
    no words that will suffice. It is the feeling and reaction that they provoke
    that is more important. Everyone will react to a certain smell differently
    and what moves one person may well leave another cold.

    That being said, there are wordsmiths who can give us a very
    precise idea of how a perfume smells to them.
    A woman without perfume is like a flower without a scent.

  12. #12
    Missing Oakmoss

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    Default Re: How Language Limits Our Ability to Describe Smells

    Language is becoming depressingly nonspecific, and perfume ingredients abysmally restricted. So I don't pay attention to fragrance categories anymore, which makes me sad - a chypre used to be a chypre, redolent of oakmoss and birch tar; I knew what was meant by "floral oriental" as a descriptor. Nowadays, I just look up the notes, read reviews by people whose tastes seem similar to mine, and hope for the best.

  13. #13

    Default Re: How Language Limits Our Ability to Describe Smells

    Quote Originally Posted by Bonnette View Post
    Language is becoming depressingly nonspecific, and perfume ingredients abysmally restricted. So I don't pay attention to fragrance categories anymore, which makes me sad - a chypre used to be a chypre, redolent of oakmoss and birch tar; I knew what was meant by "floral oriental" as a descriptor. Nowadays, I just look up the notes, read reviews by people whose tastes seem similar to mine, and hope for the best.
    I agree with much of what you have said and feel a similar way. Every year there are new language hoops to jump through and it feels like a never ending game of Simon says. I feel like telling Simon to put his/her fragrance of non-specified and indeterminate description up his back/front/left and right side and then give Simon a swift and sturdy kick in the pants.
    Words mean something. When a word means everything to everyone does it have any meaning left?

    When you say floral oriental I know what you mean. It’s a nudge in that direction, a needle on a compass pointing and it can act as a guide to someone that understands. I think it’s the best we can do barring telepathy or enlightenment.
    Currently enjoying

    Bois du Portugal / Aventus / Pour Monsieur / Boss Number One (current)
    Sagamore (vintage) / Drakkar Noir / Bright Neroli / Cool Water (vintage)
    Patrick / Allure Homme / Jazz Club / YSL Pour Homme HC

    Currently wearing: Polo by Ralph Lauren

  14. #14

    Default Re: How Language Limits Our Ability to Describe Smells

    Quote Originally Posted by Kitty2Shoes View Post
    I keep looking for new ways to rephrase 'cloying sweet'.
    I think 'cloying sweet' is a tautology

  15. #15

    Default Re: How Language Limits Our Ability to Describe Smells

    I struggle the most to find a better term for what one might call "designer" smell.

    The first thought is always "synthetic" but of course synthetics are great and in many great perfumes. So more accurately it's poorly done synthetics which I'm describing that make something cloying or fake or cheap smelling.

    Then I want to say "sephora smell" because I think we all know how that smells when you walk into a sephora. Also, this hints at the nature of the common base in many mainstream perfumes. But that might be overly mean and again inaccurate as Sephora does carry nice fragrances.

    By saying "designer" I guess I'm trying to get at a certain calculated mass appealing quality, a mundane pedestrian quality to something. But of course there are great designer perfumes that aren't this way. Maybe mundane and pedestrian are the adjectives I'm looking for, but still it doesn't quite capture that offensively abrasive element often inherent in these types of fragrances (Sauvage for example). These adjective make them sound more innocuous than they really are.

    We could narrow down to the ingredients that create this smell, mostly amberwood, ambroxan, norlimbanol type combinations from what I've read. But again this is purely speculation on my part because I'm not a perfumer I don't know exactly how these things smell and they are probably also in many things I love.

    So... I'm still lost.
    "I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones."
    -John Cage




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