Saturday, September 20, 2008

Linguistic ponderings

I had another interesting language experience the other night while talking on the computer with someone in Mexico. My friend made reference to knowing that something would happen in el momento adecuado. This made perfect sense to me. The adequate moment—which wasn't adequate exactly, but rather appropriate--the moment that was sufficiently the right moment for whatever to come to pass. I had never heard the word used that way before…yet in that fleeting read of a phrase, pictures in my mind met my method of thinking about things met up with poetry met up with a word in another language and sense was wrought. And this all happened merrily in a pinprick of time. It is completely amazing to me to be able to feel this birthing/learning happen…and it is totally cool. I imagine it is similar to what it would be like to be able to see inside chemical reactions—which I also happen to think would be completely amazing.

Another friend who sitting beside me asked if I knew what the word meant. "Yes." "Well??" "Uhhh…" "But you understand it!" "Yes." "You can't explain it?" "Not exactly."

My question then became, why can't I explain it? I can explain words in my own language to someone in Spanish…but here was a time when I couldn't unravel the thinking in the other direction! So interesting.

"To wonder," though, really threw me, when I tried to explain that once to my friend who was both so very near and so far away. It isn't thinking or considering or dreaming or curiosity or contemplation all alone, but bits of all wrapped together. What word to use in Spanish that conveys the same sense? I remember asking myself, is it possible for a language to not have a way to speak of wonder? What would that mean? Not that it didn't exist, certainly….I knew that there might well be a word for it, but it was an interesting thing to consider.

What happens to the concepts, the realities, when the limitations of language prohibit the expression of them in ways that can be understood by those engaged in the conversation? Where do they go?

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