Friday, July 22, 2016

of language and words...

Usually the Ups guy, as the kids call him, technically known as the UPS delivery person, brings cardboard shrouded packages that open easily, divesting all sorts of fun treats. Like China Rich Girlfriend (started slow, ended better), or current summer beach read, The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Plazza. But occasionally it is something so much more than a stack of novels. Occasionally it is something like what arrived this morning. 

LOST IN TRANSLATION: An illustrated compendium of untranslatable words from around the world, by Ella Frances Sanders, one of the sweetest little books with beautiful words, gorgeous definitions, and the prettiest illustrations, was dropped off in a wrinkled wrapper this morning. The damaged packaging thankfully wasn't an indication of damage to the book. And such a book...

Did you realize we have no word for the sunlight falling through the leaves of trees? Or here, this is what I am doing with writing, I am going meraki on it. Meaning I am "pouring myself wholeheartdly into something, such as cooking, and doing it with soul, creativity, and love." Sanders describes the concept of meraki as "emphasizing a thoughtful kind of passion and appreciation for the small things." I like that description a lot. I want a thoughtful kind of passion. I mean, it's all well and good to be passionate, but I do like the sound of thoughtful passion. 

I'm on a banana timer a lot, I've realized. Pisan zapra, a Malay noun meaning "the time needed to eat a banana." Of course it means that. It's perfect. It takes me a pisan zapra to pee, to brush my teeth, to make my shake in the morning. Plus, I quite enjoy saying pisan zapra. I can see the upcoming months with me doing running commentary on my morning routine, as I take just a pisan zapra to finish my coffee or make some toast.

I can't say I have a particular favourite as so many are so good, but kummerspeck just might be one of the top few. A German noun literally meaning "grief bacon," Sanders says "this word refers to the excess weight we can gain from emotional overeating." Of course the Germans would actually define this. I just read a hilarious article about Germans, I think it was in the Economist. Anyways, some German guy moved with his family from English speaking countries to Germany. He and the kids were used to speaking English but when he took them to the zoo in Germany he ordered their tickets in German. Having raised his children to have humour and understand irony, he cracked a joke to the woman at the counter about how if she charged him a bit more he would leave his children at the zoo. She was aghast, he said, and leaned out of the window and looked at his children sternly, telling them that their daddy loved them and would never do such a thing. He used this and a couple other anecdotes to illustrate his theory that Germans have no sense of humour. This article and theory provided an excellent and very stimulating conversation starter which went over like a lead balloon at a recent family gathering, populated by Germans, who also proved his point that Germans like to be right. Of course this proved my point. As James Parsons, an English speaker teaching business in Germany says of Germans, "They cannot produce good humour, but they can consume it." And I say this with all the love in the world to my very serious and ernest German family. 


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