I would beg to argue that it is only in studying other languages that one can gain appreciation for how specific words can be. I was recently reading an article in The Guardian by Robert Macfarlane in which he listed several Gaelic1 words and their meanings. I was awed to utter gleeful delight in how specific they were. Just look at some of these:
These definitions are taken from Macfarlane’s article, which I will link below. I have attempted to express the pronunciation of the Gaelic words phonetically, but if you want to hear an audio pronunciation, click on each word. I have used the consonant combination “kh” to express the sound made in the back of the throat in words like the Scottish “loch.”
Caochan (“COO-khan”): “A slender moor-stream obscured by vegetation such that it is virtually hidden from sight.”
Feadan (possibly “FIH-dahn”): “A small stream running through a moorland loch.”
Fèith (“faay”): “A fine vein-like watercourse running through peat, often dry in the summer.”
Rionnach maoim (“ROON-nakh MOO-ihm”): “The shadows cast on the moorland by clouds moving across the sky on a bright and windy day.”
Èit (possibly “etch” or “aitch”): “The practice of placing quartz stones in streams so that they sparkle in the moonlight and thereby attract salmon to them in the late summer and autumn.”
Teine-biorach (“CHI-neh BID-okh”): “A flame or will-o’-the-wisp that runs on the top of heather when the moor burns during the summer.”
Is that not spine-tinglingly delightful?
P.S. Robert Macfarlane wrote a most wonderful book titled The Lost Words, which I will tell you more about in a couple weeks.
1Gaelic refers to the Scottish language. It does not refer to the Irish language. The Irish language is called Irish in English, or Gaeilge (“GAL-guh”) in Irish.