why we don’t have generic words to describe smells as opposed to colors or tastes, but can only compare the smell to something that smells the same?

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Like, we say that a lemon is “yellow” and “sour”, but it smells “like a lemon” (yes, you can say that it smells sour, but it’s just a copy of the taste word). Or hydrogen sulfide smells “like rotten eggs”.

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“Sharp” can be applied to any number of smells, from lemons to cheese to spices to certain flowers.

Well, we’re only using “generic” colors and tastes based on other things too. When I say blue, you’re actually thinking of things you’ve previously identified as blue. Though there is a specific wavelength for blue *light* on the EM spectrum. Similarly a bitter food shares a flavor with another bitter food.

I’d say we do have generic words – sharp, pungent, foul/off, sweet, spicy, etc.

Much of descriptive language involves comparison and ambiguity. When we say something tastes sour, we can mean sour like lemon or sour like sour cream, which are two very different flavours. A sweet taste can be sweet like cinnamon-sugar or sweet like strawberries.

When we say something tastes sour we mean it has a flavour quality similar to many other sour things we’ve experienced in our life. Likewise, you could say a lemon smells citrusy, meaning it has a scent quality similar to many other citrus things you’ve experienced in your life. In both cases, you’d have a very hard time explaining what these words meant to someone who has never tasted sourness or smelled citrus.