“Language is the dress of thought.” – Samuel Johnson
… and every gentleman and lady who isn’t as loose as a rugby team’s attitude towards arse fondling knows that leaving the house dressed is vital.
Perhaps you are a Scrabble aficionado who is titillated (yes… tit) to hear that the letters used to spell “mother-in-law” can be rearranged to spell “woman Hitler”.
Hopeless romantics will be thrilled to discover that though there is a huge difference in English between “loneliness” and “solitude” there is no way to describe the Japanese term 侘寂 (or wabi-sabi), which can be roughly translated into “a serene melancholy and admiration of imperfection or something that is incomplete”.
English words are so bastardised that the untrained eye cannot even tell if the father was Latin or the stewardess mother joined the mile high club with the Greek sitting in 22A. In Icelandic new words are rarely imported, instead old words are recycled and combined to form new words: such as the word for “computer” tölva (a portmanteau of tala meaning “digit”, andvölva meaning “a seer”).
Ancient Greeks had no word to describe “blue” and instead used a word which is more like what we would now call “bronze” to describe the sea and sky. This is not such a strange phenomenon considering that even English natives can’t decide on whether the middle traffic light is “orange”, “yellow”, or “amber”.
Travellers to Spain will share my confusion because they know that the phrase:
will most likely be answered with an:
“Un poco…” (A little.)
Or perhaps you enjoy the irreplaceable closure that can be felt when you discover that we use Old English words such as “sheep”, “cow”, and “pig” to describe the animal in its living form, but the words for the meat such as “mutton”, “beef”, and “bacon” are different because their roots lie in French.
Traditional grammar purists may rail at innocent on-speakers who use the sentences “And you?”, “I can type quick.”, or “What you mean?” Tut-tut! After-all, everybody knows that a sentence needs adverbs, verbs, and a subject. Is that why the sentence “Colorless green dreams sleep furiously,” makes sense?
My point is that everybody just wants to be understood. Growing up in Australia, I used to think the meaning of life was sport. In high school I was lead to believe it was science or history. At university the op-shop clad creatives succoured me into believing it was music and the visual arts. When I discovered that language could make and unmake me, when I found out that I had a voice that could not only be heard but heard by over seven billion people my entire being – my world – was manifest. Each language pushes us down a rabbit hole to visit a totally new, maniacal, and somehow logical wonderland each time. For many of you language means your heinous German teacher or that wanker who corrects the grammar on your Facebook page, but for me it is the childlike joy to be found in puns; the connection to thousands of years of evolution through etymology; it is the fact that even something so seemingly objective as colour is bias; it is the difference between a “trickle”, “drizzle”, “gush”, and “lap” when it’s all just water in the end. It is the past, the future, the present, you, me, he, she, it, art and science, the cow and the beef, and the topic of many entries to come. I hope you come to fall in love with language as I have.