to be capable of being hurt

Jasmine329

Member
Korean
"I think that’s what it means to be “real” as a parent or a teacher – to be vulnerable, to be capable of being hurt. The only way to avoid the pain of vulnerability is by shutting out all emotion and becoming cold, uncaring, heartless and selfish. To love is to be vulnerable – and vulnerability is a precious quality of the best parents and of the best teachers."


Above is a quote from headmaster's newsletter. My colleague and I were translating the newsletter into our native language, and over the phrase"to be capable of being hurt" we had a stark disagreement.


I did not consider the possibility of “being able to” at all, given two definitions of “capable” – i) having capacity or ability, and ii) predisposed to/susceptible to.


I took the second definition to translate it. But my colleague wanted to go with the first definition, claiming that it shouldn't be viewed as a passive attitude.


The problem is, my language does not have that expression “be able to be hurt” except a kind of perverted use, say in literature. So what we actually did is that we treated the phrase “capable of being hurt” as if it had been “be able to endure, or handle hurt”.


I already submitted our translation. I just let my colleague make a final choice because she was virtually a reviewer (She spent most of her school years in an English-speaking environment).


But I have been in agony all weekend. I am afraid that I changed the original text to a different style of writing.


So I just want to ask which definition English speakers would first use for the word "capable" here before thinking about the meaning more deeply.


Any comments would be highly appreciated, but please hurry up! Maybe adjustment would be allowed within about 12 hours from now.


*************************
If you need more context, in a story the headmaster quoted, a rabbit toy just wants to be real without knowing what it would mean. But the rabbit only knows once it becomes real, it won't mind pains from being real much, even though being real sometimes involves pains. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Hi, Jasmine.

    The second definition makes sense to me: ii) predisposed to/susceptible to. The headmaster isn't boasting about some talent that teachers have developed. He's referring to their natural vulnerability. He thinks that vulnerability is a good thing because it indicates that they haven't become cold and uncaring.
     

    Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    Welcome to the forum, Jasmine329!

    The phrase could be reworded (in my opinion) as "to be someone who can be hurt" or "to be able to be hurt." I don't think it means either "to be predisposed to being hurt" or "to be able to endure or handle hurt." It is not much different from the first phrase, "to be vulnerable."

    [Cross-posted with owlman5]
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Hello Jasmine329, welcome to WRF.
    If we conjugate the verb to be, the phrase parents or teachers are capable of being hurt should be understood as "They can be be hurt." or "It is possible to hurt them." In your context, because not all teachers and parents are hurt, thus the first definition is the better one: i) having capacity or ability, i.e. to possess a capacity or ability that is able to be activated.
     

    theartichoke

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    I agree with Florentia. Being capable of being hurt simply means that you aren't so cold and uncaring (or arrogant, I suppose) as to be invulnerable to how others treat you or think about you. Being predisposed or susceptible to being hurt, as I see it, means that you are easily hurt: things that wouldn't hurt most people will hurt you, and you are probably considered "overly sensitive." Obviously, that's not what one wants in a teacher.:)
     
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    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I don't think you have to be a wimp, Artie, to be capable of being hurt. I don't think that definition implies any unusual susceptibility. All normal humans are susceptible to feeling hurt.
     

    theartichoke

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    I don't think you have to be a wimp, Artie, to be capable of being hurt. I don't think that definition implies any unusual susceptibility. All normal humans are susceptible to feeling hurt.
    When given these two alternatives-- i) having capacity or ability, and ii) predisposed to/susceptible to--I read "susceptible" and "predisposed" as implying "to a degree beyond the norm," the way we'd use them if we said "John mustn't get his feet wet--he's susceptible to colds" or "her family is predisposed to obesity."

    But on re-reading the OP just now, this line struck me: "I took the second definition to translate it. But my colleague wanted to go with the first definition, claiming that it shouldn't be viewed as a passive attitude." This sounds more like they're reading "having capacity or ability" as something like an active skill, like "I am capable of playing the violin." And being "capable" of being hurt is certainly not a skill--it's a normal human attribute, and it is "passive" as opposed to "active."

    Given that the issue is how to translate it into Korean, and that the concept "to be able to be hurt" doesn't seem to translate well, things get tricky. They need a phrase that could be used for any normal human capacity: the capacity to feel love, for instance.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Thanks for the clarification.

    But on re-reading the OP just now, this line struck me: "I took the second definition to translate it. But my colleague wanted to go with the first definition, claiming that it shouldn't be viewed as a passive attitude." This sounds more like they're reading "having capacity or ability" as something like an active skill, like "I am capable of playing the violin." And being "capable" of being hurt is certainly not a skill--it's a normal human attribute, and it is "passive" as opposed to "active."
    That's what struck me. The colleague seems to believe that the headmaster is talking about some learned ability. That interpretation seems odd and unlikely.
     
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    Jasmine329

    Member
    Korean
    Thank you all. When I visited this page again to check out replies, I was speechless with joy.


    As theartichoke said, we both read "having capacity or ability" as something like an active skill. That's why I didn't think about this definition from the beginning.


    After reading through all the replies, I learned that "able" can mean "susceptible to action or treatment" (I found this definition on thefreedictionary.com). Also, I found that "susceptible" has this meaning "permitting an action to be performed; capable of undergoing something".


    So actually, all the replies seem to take the same view, including owlman5. So now I can rest assured that it should be not much different from the first phrase, "to be vulnerable."


    owlman5, indeed your guess (#9) is right. In other cases, she's been very helpful. But for this newsletter, her interpretation seemed odd. That's why I decided to come to this forum.


    When I said that "to be able to be hurt" could not translate well into Korean, this was merely because I only had in mind a kind of actual skills. Now I can perfectly translate this thanks to your help. I only hope the newsletter hasn't been circulated. :)


    Once again, thank you so much!!!
     
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