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When we think of the word aroma, we automatically associate it with something pleasant and then we create a certain image in our mind of what it is we smell. Many other cultures are a lot more descriptive when describing a scent. This Is what makes every culture so different.

This is supported in the article,  “What’s in an aroma? Languages with odour vocabularies” by Gregory J. Downey, an anthropologists report states that many non-Western cultures devote much greater attention to aroma than Europeans or North Americans do.

Another example used that is used is the Maniq and Jahai scent descriptors who cover a very wide range of variety but don’t cover the actual source. An example given in the article is a Maniq scent term which is linked to a very wide range of reference which talks about mushrooms, water, mud, bamboo, soil, sweat, urine. When we describe a certain smell we usually use words such as “sweet”, “strong”, or “flowery”. We never usually associate it to something specifically. The comparison of these two different cultures helps us determine why it is usually so hard for us English speaks to describe an odor and for other cultures it is so easy. Because, they have such a rich vocabulary to choose from it makes them so easy to describe something.

Describing a scent is something easy to do but for many cultures there is a specialized vocabulary which needs to be used. For many cultures that vocabulary used then leads to a more sophisticated and highly trained sensory system. Anthropologists use this example to explain that even simple everyday tasks which might very simple for one culture can be completely different for another which explain how diverse and unique every culture is.


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