Friday, June 24, 2005

The word meme

So I've been tagged again, this time by Kaashyapeya, for words. I thought his post was great, and expressed many of the same opinions I have in my relationship to language. I delight when a word presents itself weaving rhythms in its cadence, profound in its effect. Big words thrill me, but some little ones are charming as well. I know this will horrify linguists, but some languages and their words are definitely more pleasing to me than others. Even something as mundane as "I want to eat" can sound oh so sweet in Italian, "Voglio mangiare". And over the years I've committed to memory so many words from different languages, that have embodied this musical quality, even though the sentiment they express is utterly ordinary.

One of the first words to fascinate me was wanderlust, and I would be so eager to use it in a sentence, anything that could remotely express my fascination for distant horizons.

Since I started learning Greek, I realized that many of the words that I so love in English have Greek origins, and perhaps I prefer the Greek version, there is less abruptness and more of a flow, compared to the English version. So ephemeros over ephemeral, epiphaneia over epiphany, chasma over chasm, etc.

And then there are words in languages I grew up with, words like aador in Bengali that have travelled far from their Sanskrit etymologies to produce meanings that are so subtle, so delicate as to render almost untranslatable. There are other Bengali words that fascinate me, taan, which implies an attachment a longing. I love the many words in Bengali, some onomatopoeic, that convey the texture of food, khasta, muchmuchey, tultuley, etc.

Many words in Hindi/Urdu are delightful, with their subtle shades of meaning. Like the word chaahat, again implying attachment and more. And none more evocative than the phrase saundhi khushboo, attempting to capture the fragrance of wet earth as it quenches itself in the first rains. There is the gravity of Sanskrit, where abstract concepts are invented before they are morphed into their practical associations. The word shunya, nothing and everything at the same time. Or spriha, implying a striving for excellence. Pragya, wisdom itself.

There is the refined elegance of Farsi, where the language seems to have be devised for poetic purposes. How could Rumi and Hafez not use words like aatesh, mai-parast, ishq, kahkashan.......

In a world of such riches, it's a shame not to be polyglot. How I wish I knew more. But I do know palimpsest, a word listed by Kaashypeya in his list, and I do hope that what is erased deserves to be lost and what is written is an improvement. And now I need to pass this along, so here are the usual suspects:

And some more



Blogger Jabberwock said...

Oh dear. Not another tag. This should be even tougher than the book/song ones. But will make honest effort. Soon.

9:48 PM  
Blogger the still dancer said...

@ jabberwockwaiting eagerly for your post.
@ mikra
Now you've made me regret not picking bangla words. aador has such variegatd connotations, from the filial to the romantic to the erotic. What is the Sanskrit etymology, by the way? Incidentally, there is a word similar to saundhi in bangla, shonda (the 'n' is nasal, i.e. a chandrobindu), e.g. shonda maati, which means exactly the same thing. pragya, I thought was pali. pragyaparamita was one of the Buddha's names, and is also my mother's name, so thanks for including that one.
you know farsi? I'm overawed, as JAP would say.

7:06 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Jabberwock: I'm sure the results would be "fabulous" (another of the words I use ever so often)

Kaashyapeya: I was actually quite surprised that you didn't pick any Bangla words, why don't you do another post on them. I think the Sanskrit etymology is aadar, which means respect, but of course, it has morphed into something much more complex in Bangla.

Yes, I know about shonda maati, same meaning. Perhaps Pragya is Pali, but it appears in some Sanskrit texts as well. Your mother has such a beautiful name.

As far as Farsi is concerned, I'm nowhere near full comprehension or fluency. I can understand some simple sentences when spoken slowly and clearly, but cannot really speak the language. My comprehension of literary Farsi is extremely limited. So please do not be overawed in haste :)!

12:47 PM  
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