“Emotions, in my experience, aren’t covered by single words. I don’t believe in “sadness,” “joy,” or “regret.” Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I’d like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, “the happiness that attends disaster.” Or: “the disappointment of sleeping with one’s fantasy.” I’d like to show how “intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members” connects with “the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age.” I’d like to have a word for “the sadness inspired by failing restaurants” as well as for “the excitement of getting a room with a minibar.” I’ve never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I’ve entered my story, I need them more than ever. ” Jeffrey Eugenides.
“Words are a pretext. It is the inner bond that draws one person to another, not words.” Rumi.
The first time I said it at university this year was around 6 months ago. I was explaining to my teacher and the class what had unfolded in an activity with the glorious woman sitting beside me. I was trying to communicate the intensity of the conversation. Though quiet and slow the connection was strong and fierce; and the understanding between each other complete and whole.
‘We speak the same language’ I eventually arrived at in a blushed huff.
My teacher smiled and nodded knowingly, for sometimes there are indeed people you meet where communication is rich, fleshy, …eeeeeaaaaasy …where all the silences are full of other dialogues that don’t need to be spoken, merely expressed with the language of the body; with a nod, a hug or a strong grasp of hands as this woman and I did, side by side, as I said those words to the class.
Language is a funny thing. We have access to so many words to express so many things but often they don’t even touch the surface of what we are trying to say. They fall short.
‘Oh shut. uppppppppp Kate’ I often hear my self saying (to myself) when I’m talking, trying to give voice to how I feel.
And the frustrations I have as a writer? Trying to put the feelings on page? Equally as hard. As I said in a poem recently, on those days ‘I wish I were a dancer’, …ANY kind of artist really that doesn’t rely on words for expression, for what words do I have really that communicate what I wish to say?
Ella Frances Sanders in an article for Huffington Post reveals 11 Untranslatable Words from other cultures, 11 words that the English language has no word for. For instance, Culaccino, an Italian word for …’The mark left on a table by a cold glass’. Komorebi, a Japanese word for… ‘When sunlight filters through the trees — the interplay between the light and the leaves’. Goya, from the Urdu language used to convey… ‘A contemplative ‘as-if’ that nonetheless feels like reality, and describes the suspension of disbelief that can occur, often through good storytelling. Waldeinsamkeit, a German word for… A feeling of solitude, being alone in the woods and a connectedness to nature’. And my favorite, Iktsuarpok, an Inuit word for… ‘The feeling of anticipation that leads you to go outside and check if anyone is coming’.
If you take a moment to think on this last word, of an Inuit alone in the vast, white, cold, quiet landscape that is the Arctic regions of the world, that feeling of anticipation would be great. So great you would need to have a word for it.
Since reading this article I have looked at that little misty ring left behind when I lift my wine glass, and thought to the Inuit as so many things of late have caused me to be impatient, anxious at times even; but simultaneously tingly, leaning in slowly to ‘a’ something…; and I have been lead to memories of words I have created with people. Words that would make no sense to others.
I witnessed this last night in fact as another dear soul I have connected with this year communicated with me at a pub in amongst a group of people who all bore the most puzzled of looks as we did so. It all made perfect sense to us of course – gestures and words full of meanings from the year we had experienced together, but to others was simply a bunch of gobble-de-gook (now there’s a word).
These languages that we share and create with others are the languages of love. And I am not necessarily referring to romantic love. Shared language is language born of deep connection and understanding and if we are lucky we can have this with numerous people on the planet – friends, family, even brief encounters with strangers (…always a welcome surprise to a day this particular encounter I find).
Gary Chapman says that there are only five languages when it comes to love in his book ‘The Five Love Languages’. Oh how I disagree. As stated above, in my mind, the languages are as numerous as there are numbers of people in the world times the amount of connections each of us makes to ‘other’. The languages develop in an in-between place, the ‘meaning making’ made between the two or more people as they connect, as they decipher the symbols the other offers them based on their own experiences and the feelings they have at the time they are listening to each other. I would even like to suggest that the environment surrounding those people as they connect plays a part in how the words are translated, how they are created. Smells, a breeze, grass, trees, the ocean …compared to a busy city street or a pub buzzing with bodies and music.
What fun. What play.
…And what possibility there is for creation with every single person that we meet. With every word spoken and for all those languages that need not words, something new is being born if even just for a moment.
I feel incredibly blessed by the connections I have made this life time thus far. Whether brief, whether looooooong and still unfolding or whether a meaning-full chapter I have been spoilt by the souls that have come into my life and all the meaning making we have created together in amongst the limitations of language.
Wonder. Meant …that language may in fact have no limitations if they are to bare new meaning with every person we meet.
Wonder. Meant …that I giggle at the irony this moment looking toward the ellipsis tattooed on my index finger, a punctuation mark that indicates an intentional omission of a word or sentence, and though necessary for syntactical construction, is not necessary for comprehension.