I always thought Hell sounded like a way more terrible place than el Infierno.
In fact, looking up the definition of infierno, it sounds pretty terrible too:
- m. rel. Lugar destinado al eterno castigo de los condenados:
la monja dijo que por ser malas iríamos al infierno.
- Tormento y castigo de los condenados:
el infierno de los pecadores.
- mit. Lugar al que iban las almas de los difuntos.
- Lugar en donde hay mucho alboroto y discordia:
esta oficina se ha convertido en un infierno por los continuos rumores.
To English ears, though, Infierno just sounds like an oven or a furnace. We hear the word “fire” in it. An earthly, physical pain; Hell is supposed to be unimaginable torment, right? I actually read Dante’s Inferno in 10th grade, and I guess it sounded pretty bad, but it didn’t seem as bleak as I reckon Hell to be. Because I have imagined the profoundness of Hell more in English, for one, complete with its existential despair (thanks, Sam Beckett!), and for two because the word just sounds bad.
When I was in Stockholm briefly a few years ago with Chris Baronavski, I noticed how severe the statues around the city seemed. I surmised it was a reflection of the craggly, dramatic, and very beautiful landscape, and the fact that Scandinavians are historically really badass.