Languages come with a way of thinking, our individual use of a language is biased by the way we see perceive the world.
One could say, that both are the same. The way a language evolved corresponds to the many generations using it. They have been learning to live and adapt to their context over the centuries, thus needing a language serving their purposes. The way an individual uses a language is built on that knowledge and further transformed by their individual experience.
Being fluent in English, German and French I’ll often be searching for the appropriate word. Using the languages for different purposes and at different ages impacted how broad my vocabulary is in each of them. At the same time, I’m always astonished as to how it is impossible to translate the feelings and metaphors that come with a word.
Verboten is such a word. It should be easy to translate it to forbidden or défendu in French. And yet, it isn’t. To me, the English and French versions both miss a questioning that comes along with “Verboten”.
It might be a result of the way other nations have been making fun of the German stereotype, highlighting the idea of people being unthinkingly obedient to authority. Heinrich Mann described this frighteningly well in his novel “Der Untertan”. Diederich Hessling, the title character, described as a loyal subject in the sense of being a person subservient to a monarch is at the same time an immoral man.
Verboten, thus comes to me with the question “why?”
It leads to a desire to understand if there is a need for this limit.
What is being protected? What is being avoided?
As long as the corresponding explanation is missing, it remains hard to follow the sign.
Someone using it without explanation is relying on the trust his followers have in him.