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If I wanted to express that something such as a holocaust memorial was good to visit I would want to avoid saying something such as "it was great" or "I enjoyed visiting it".

Is there a word that can positively describe something like a memorial without suggesting it was pleasurable.

Some words I've considered, but do not quite fit my needs:

  • Tasteful: Something could be tasteful, and I could still wish I hadn't visited it.

  • Thought provoking has the same issue, as it doesn't really describe the quality of the experience.

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The issue is why is visiting the memorial good? There may be numerous reasons, which you as author can choose among. It might be that you were urged on to do better or different things in your own life (moved) or that you henceforth felt far more connected with others (touched, touched in the heart). If you are not sure why the memorial is worthy, but that it is worth pondering for another day, there are many generic words (memorable, interesting). Why do you think it's a good idea to visit? I think more than one word, possibly many words, are required to truly motivate the unmotivated. – AnneTheAgile Dec 31 '15 at 15:24

13 Answers 13

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Powerful is the word you are looking for. This is the word I would use to describe my visits to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, the 9/11 memorial in NYC, the Oklahoma City bombing memorial, as well as my trip to Nagasaki Japan where I stood at ground zero. All of these places have had a lasting impact on me.

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The verb moving can be put to service here.

From http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/moving:

stirring or evoking strong feelings or emotions, especially touchingly or pathetically

"The war memorial was a moving experience."

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Synonym: "heart touching". – Graffito Dec 31 '15 at 12:42
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@Graffito: What dialect is that? I've never encountered it. (I'm from the Upper Midwestern U.S., FWIW.) – ruakh Jan 1 at 1:57
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@ruakh - "Heart touching movie" is used by UK films critics. For "Heart touching song", it seems that a lot of occurences are related to Indian songs or Bollywood lyrics. – Graffito Jan 1 at 16:47
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@Graffito: Here in the UK, I've heard "heart warming" and I've heard "touching" (on its own), but not "heart touching." ("Movie" is also relatively rare here as opposed to, say, the U.S.; we normally say "film." But of course, BrEng and AmEng are getting closer, I hear a lot more Americanisms now than 15 years ago and I think it's happening the other way [to a lesser extent] there, too...) – T.J. Crowder Jan 3 at 14:57
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@T.J. I'm from California and I've never heard it, so it's definitely more local than all of the US. – bjb568 is not a pebble Jan 3 at 20:13

You could consider using memorable:

Worth remembering or easily remembered, especially because of being special or unusual.

Or impressive:

Evoking admiration through size, quality, or skill; grand, imposing, or awesome

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

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or "gripping"... – Graffito Dec 31 '15 at 12:46
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@Graffito Doesn't the word gripping have a connotation of exciting? I like heart-touching better. What do you think? – Rathony Dec 31 '15 at 12:49
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Here is a film comment about Fateless: The international best-seller, translated into more than a dozen languages, tells the gripping story of Gyorgy Koves, a teenage Hungarian Jewish boy who volunteers to go to a concentration camp in Germany during World War II, convinced that his life will be safer there, following his father’s own departure to a camp. Grip indicates that the audience is seized by the movie. – Graffito Dec 31 '15 at 13:20
    
@Graffito Visiting a war memorial is not a gripping experience, reading a really good novel, or watching a thrilling and exciting movie can be described as gripping. You are gripped to your armchair/seat when you see a movie, you grip a book because you can't bear to put it down. What do you metaphorically "grip" when you visit a memorial? A (war) documentary could be gripping because it holds your interest for a prolonged period of time. – Mari-Lou A Jan 4 at 9:47

The memorial had a profound effect on me

Examples taken from the net

  1. Memorial Day […] But years of passing by a cemetery on the way to worship time and again have had a profound effect upon me.

  2. Throughout the year, the team at Holocaust Memorial Day Trust hears anecdotally about the profound effect that taking part in Holocaust Memorial Day has on individuals and communities.

  3. No one else had a better understanding of the problem and how it might be solved. ... No other invention of our time has had such a profound effect on society. John Bardeen had an equally profound influence on contemporary physics...

  4. Regardless of being very experienced guides at the Dachau Memorial Site, it had a profound effect on all of us.

  5. The story of the drowning only recently came to light. At last year's Memorial Service, Kapiti Mayor Jenny Rowland read out the names of the dead for the first time. A world away, in Massachusetts, that reading had a profound effect on Zalot.

    • "For 68 years I had this nightmare," the still spritely Zalot said. "I could hear the men screaming."
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I suggest poignant:

Evoking a keen sense of sadness or regret: "a poignant reminder of the passing of time"

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meaningful

Having a serious, important, or useful quality or purpose: "Our visit to the holocaust memorial was meaningful."

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My mother an I visited the 9/11 memorial this past spring, and the the best I could come up with was "heavy."

I thought hard about this very problem you are asking, and while "memorable," and "impressive" did come to mind, most words seemed to lack something. I don't have a huge command of the English Language, but this was my break down:

Awesome - No
Cool - No
...
Memorable - How?  No emotion, just that I will remember it, goes without saying.
Impactful - Ok, ish.  Doesn't feel right though.
Impressive - What? Thousands die, careful with that word.
Moving - Ok.
Intense - A lot of things can be Intense, what kind of Emotion?
...
Heavy - To me this wraps enough of the above up, without excitement.
    Heavy is strong (Intense), deep emotional impact (not surface level, internal)
    To me it meant there was a lot to take in, thought provoking, and touched me deeply.

My thoughts. But it really depends on how it affected you, personally. Without knowing the feelings it drew up in you, it is difficult for us to suggest a good descriptor. You do not want to use someone else's word to communicate a feeling you had. Look inside of yourself, and really think about it. Skirt from things that you feel don't fit.

Don't dwell on the words that you can't use, find the word that you feel you must use.

What helped me was to step through words, start with the first word that comes to mind, then a word like it, then like that, and so on, thinking about the quality of the word and what you like or want to avoid in it to take you to the next word. It took me a good few days to figure it out for myself. Also, it is important to note that one word that works for one monument/memorial, may not work for the next.

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I like the idea of thoughtfully selecting the word of best fit even if it requires days to determine, because it provides more opportunity to prolong the experience after the moment itself has passed. Perhaps an acceptable interim response is: "I don't know how I feel about it yet." – gfullam Dec 31 '15 at 21:04
    
[sigh] "impactful"? Really? Impact is what happens between billiard balls, my fist and someone's face, or an asteroid and a planet. Unless the monument fell over and hit the person, it didn't have an impact. It had an effect or it affected the person, it did not have an impact. – killermist Jan 2 at 15:43
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@killermist I disagree. It's very appropriate to speak about the "emotional impact" of something, for which "impact" is shorthand. See usage notes here: dictionary.reference.com/browse/impact – mbm29414 Jan 2 at 16:13
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@killermist, on one had I can agree, that as a term it does not feel "quite" right, but I think that, colloquially, the term "impactful" is acceptable as an equivalent to the full phrase "it impacted me on an emotional level." As though to say it was "an emotional punch to the gut." That said, anything more about the specific word should probably open a new question, no? – Mike Jan 4 at 17:36
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@bjb568 - Side note: whenever anyone would use the word "Awesome," my English teacher would always ask for a different word, stating that the Holocaust was Awesome as well. She also had a thing against the word "Passion," stating that Hitler was a very passionate man. She really pushed for us to diversify our word usage. – Mike Jan 4 at 17:40

How about worthwhile, as in

My visit to the war memorial was thoroughly worthwhile.

It seems a good choice of words if the main thing you want to get across is the positiveness of the visit for you, without going into the details of your experience.

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It could even be inspiring... though whether it inspires one to honor the soldiers, to enter military service, to protest against war, or all of those at once is a separate question.

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I think the word "sombre" would be appropriate.

Sombre: having or conveying a feeling of deep seriousness and sadness.

Google's definition of sombre.

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"My trip to the memorial was actually very cathartic, and I felt much better afterwards."

cathartic

1.
providing psychological relief through the open expression of strong emotions; causing catharsis.
"crying is a cathartic release"
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Awesome, with the right tone of voice could be appropriate.

Extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear

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Original definition would be perfect, but that’s not the definition most are going to think of when you use the word. – KRyan Dec 31 '15 at 22:28
    
I totally agree - though depending on exactly what you want to convey it might be the optimal choice. Probably not exactly what the OP had in mind, but listed for completeness sake – Wayne Werner Dec 31 '15 at 22:52
    
"Awesome" as in "inspiring awe". In this case, "awe" is a a neutral thing affected by the other context in which it is cast. – killermist Jan 2 at 15:49

The one word that popped into my mind was: surreal.

Here is a relevant excerpt from the article High schoolers get up-close look at Holocaust - AJC.com:

“When he was a freshman, I told him to take the class because it is literally life-changing,” he said. “The trip was moving; it evoked a broad spectrum of emotions. Visiting Krakow and Auschwitz was very heavy; it’s so hard to wrap your head around how many people were slaughtered when you’re walking through the same gas chambers."

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Thank you for the feedback. – dmy Jan 1 at 2:03

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