Saturday “Wordy” Smörgåsbord

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I love languages. I always have and I always will – I love playing around with words, meanings, expressions, … and each language seems to have its own peculiarities, making it more suit for a certain situation. French has a high level of drama embedded in it, while Portuguese means love, and romance. English is more robust, solid, and to the point, and Dutch is very good at handling day-to-day business. Needless to say, I first fell in love while being on a French language course, I had a Portuguese boyfriend for 2 years, all work-related communications are in English and my mother tongue is Dutch. As a result, I often find myself blending words and expressions from each of these languages in whatever language I’m speaking at that particular moment, because, well, they simply fit better with what it is I’m trying to say. I give you: my favorite words and expressions.

 

French

Coup de foudre horizontal

Image by Twistiti via Flickr

Le coup de foudre“. Literal translation: “struck by lightning”, in other words: love at first sight. But “love at first sight” just doesn’t reflect the BANG of the moment, the instant recognition, the “(s)he takes my breath away”-kind of feeling. I also like the presence of “fou” (crazy) in “foudre” and the (undoubtedly coincidental) likeness of the word to “se foutre de” (not giving a crap) (“foutre” then again seems to have its origin in the Latin “futuere”, “to have intercourse”, which is equally applicable). So when you experience le coup de foudre, you feel struck by lightning, and you don’t care about anything else, you’re crazy for that person, and … well … it’s clear what you’re aiming at.

 

Portuguese

"Fado", one of the Azulejos at Estra...

Image via Wikipedia

You could roughly translate “saudades” with “homesickness”, but as with “le coup de foudre”, it just doesn’t fit. Homesickness is what you feel when you’re 7 years old and you go on a summer camp alone for the first time. Saudades… saudades is a sense of longing, intensely, with your whole mind and body for something/someone/someplace you cannot reach now (and possibly never). It is a feeling that encompasses much more than simply “missing”, and it has a strong component of melancholia and nostalgia attached to it. Fado is particularly apt at translating this feeling into music although, strangely, I don’t like the typical high-pitched fado-voices. Maybe I’ve had my share of saudades with the long-distance relationship I was in to last me the rest of my life :).

 

English
I have a strange love-hate relationship with English. I feel very comfortable in it (yes, “in”, not “with”), it has a strange familiarity and its vocabulary houses a number of truly great words.

Apt.
Incontestable.
Furiously.
Eloquent.
Embroidery.
Worthwhile.

It’s not so much the meaning of the word in itself, but rather how the word image matches so well with what it means. However (another favorite of mine), they should be written the British way. It should be “colour”. And “flavour”. “Flavor” just doesn’t do “flavour” justice – it’s so bland, it doesn’t really taste like anything. The pronunciation, on the other hand, should be South African. Or Irish. You gotta love the South African accent, ya!


My main problem with English though is that I seem to be talking it all the time. Even when I talk French, or Dutch, English words and expressions wriggle (beautiful one, also!) their way into my sentences until I’m not sure which language I’m speaking. Whatever. There you go. You got me there! Please? No way. Oh my God. We have similar expression in Dutch, but they just don’t seem to do. And now that the vast majority of my communication is in English I have not only taken up the habit of literally translating English expressions into Dutch (“it doesn’t make sense” just doesn’t make sense in Dutch, trust me), but half of the nouns I use are either English or anglicisms of some sort. I have never understood how people could forget their mother tongue, but sometimes I feel I’m well on my way ;).

 

Dutch
Ah, marvelous, versatile Dutch … the number of dialects alone make it worthwhile studying. However, since my parents decided – in a fit of insanisty, I’m sure – to raise me in “General Dutch”, my dialect skills are below zero. I understand it to a certain degree, but it stops there. And thus I specialize more in the other end of the language spectrum: the academic, elite kind of speech. I’ve often heard I manage to make the simplest things sound complicated, as I use a vocabulary which seems to belong more in the 8 o’clock news than in a conversation between friends. I’m particularly fond of conjunctions, such as “daarentegen” and “desalniettemin”. Basically, a words need at least 4 syllables to be even considered being placed in my vocabulary ;).
However, one two-syllable word needs mentioning.

Goesting.

Like “saudades”, there is no simple translation for this one. Goesting is a desire for something, but it comes from deep within, you know? Like when you come back from a long walk, and you just feel goesting for a beer. It’s much stronger than just feeling like a beer, it’s something you need. Or when you have this special little feeling, after dinner, you’re really stuffed, and content, but you just would wanna have a cookie. That’s goesting. Of course, it applies also to other… non-food… things, so ladies – beware if you get near a guy with a pair of trousers full of goesting… . He might not have a strawberry ice cream with whipped cream in mind.

Strawberry ice cream

Image via Wikipedia

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One response »

  1. Pingback: The joys and quirks of language (or not) « A World of Lies

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