“Some people have a way with words, and other people…oh, uh, not have way.” ~ Steve Martin

Play on Words
Tristan Bates Theatre, UK

                   

“I like good strong words that mean something…” ~ Louisa May Alcott, from Little Women

Thursday afternoon. Sunny, 80’s.

I found the following on my Tumblr dash (where else?) a few days ago, and decided that it would make a great prompt for a post. Hope you like it.

11 More Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent

Seigneur-terraces (French)
Coffee shop dwellers who sit at tables a long time but spend little money.

Words, words, words

I remember sitting in a Starbucks for hours one time just writing in my journal and kind of daydreaming. I only had enough money for a coffee, but I felt no guilt at squatting at prime real estate for as long as I needed, despite the evil looks from people who wanted my table. I also used to do this at the Starbucks inside the Barnes & Noble that I frequented. I would get a stack of possible books, find a table, and sit there as I went through the books to decide which ones I wanted to buy. One time I read William Styron’s Darkness Visible in its entirety, and another time I read A Boy Called It, which made me decide to buy the sequel. And yes, I purchased both books that I read.

Ya’arburnee (Arabic)
This word is the hopeful declaration that you will die before someone you love deeply, because you cannot stand to live without them. Literally, may you bury me.

In my romantic mind, I would never want to die before my beloved as I am uncertain if I have any grief left within me after losing those I most loved. This one is a tough one, but a beautiful word.

“I’m apt to get drunk on words . . . Ontology: the word about the essence of things; the word about being.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle, from A Circle of Quiet

Schlimazel (Yiddish)
Someone prone to bad luck. Yiddish distinguishes between the schlemiel and schlimazel, whose fates would probably be grouped under those of the klutz in other languages. The schlemiel is the traditional maladroit, who spills his coffee; the schlimazel is the one on whom it’s spilled.

Words
by Ben Schott (New York Times)

Is it possible to be both a schlemiel and a schlimazel? I am quite adept at spilling things, especially my food and drink, and especially if I am wearing the most inappropriate clothes for a spill, say white silk. And as for being a schlimazel, perhaps less so unless it concerns something coming out of a baby. For the first year of Eamonn’s life, he threw up on me regularly, so much so that it was not uncommon for me to have to change nightgowns mid-night. He had severe stomach problems and had an operation when he was just three weeks old. But of the two, definitely the spiller as opposed to the spillee.

One other interesting memory: When I worked in Northern Virginia, a pack of us went out on a Friday after work, and we went dancing. My boss was there, and since I was relatively new, he offered to dance with me. I was wearing scarlet lipstick, and I tripped and fell into his starched white shirt, leaving a huge lipstick stain on the sleeve. I asked him the next day what he said to his wife as the truth seemed so unbelievable. He said that he threw away the shirt because she would never believe how it really happened. I felt horrible.

Packesel (German)
The packesel is the person who’s stuck carrying everyone else’s bags on a trip. Literally, a burro.

My ex and I used to go hiking and camping in the Virginia foothills. One time we took along a couple with whom we had been friends for years. The female of the couple wore penny loafers (which has nothing to do with this word), but the male of the pair was so whiny that on the hike back, I took his pack just so I wouldn’t have to hear him. Yes, my back used to be quite strong . . .

“She had always wanted words, she loved them; grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from The English Patient

L’esprit de l’escalier (French)
Literally, stairwell wit—a too-late retort thought of only after departure.

Oh how I wish that I had known that there was an actual term for this years ago. I am famous for coming up with the biting retort—well after the other person has left the room. So much so that I sometimes wanted to run them down in the hall just so that I could fling my words at them, but of course, that would have been childish.

Awesomely Untranslatable Words from around the World

Hygge (Danish)
Denmark’s mantra, hygge is the pleasant, genial, and intimate feeling associated with sitting around a fire in the winter with close friends.

We have a fireplace in our house, a real, working fireplace. The last time we used it was a couple of winters ago when we didn’t have heat. However, years ago, when my ex lived here, we used to build fires frequently in the winter, back when we were unaware of the pollution links. I love the smell of a wood fire. There is something inherently comforting in that smell, something that makes me feel very relaxed. The same with a campfire—that smell. I remember in high school we used to have bonfires before big football games. I’m sure they don’t do that any more, at least not in cities. Too many possibilities for things to go wrong.

Sad, really. Will we have generations who never know the smell of woodsmoke?

One of our goals for the house is to install a gas fire in the fireplace, so that we can have the heat and appearance of a fire, but it’s just not the same.

Spesenritter (German)
Literally, an expense knight. You’ve probably dined with a spesenritter before, the type who shows off by paying the bill on the company’s expense account.

I’ve known a few of these, but I’ve never been one, never had an expense account, never had enough power to have one. One of my very dear friends at the government services firm where I worked used to take me to dinner on his expense account. And then because I was on the staff for the big guys, I was frequently taken to lunch on expense accounts, back in the 80’s when money flowed freely. I remember that the staff would always go out to celebrate after the completion of a big proposal effort or if a contract was won, both of which happened often.

As a publications manager, I was courted by all kinds of print houses, and I’ll never forget this one lunch at an Italian restaurant, the best pasta I’ve ever had. Going out on someone else’s account is wonderful as price never seems to matter, and dessert is always an option. Of course, those days are long gone.

“All I’m writing is just what I feel, that’s all. I just keep it almost naked. And probably the words are so bland.” ~ Jimi Hendrix

Cavoli Riscaldati (Italian)
The result of attempting to revive an unworkable relationship. Literally, reheated cabbage.

Hmm . . . my ex, ‘nuf said, except that reheated cabbage describes it perfectly: old, wilted, smelly, but still you try to make a meal of it until you realize that it’s totally inedible.

Words that Don’t Exist in the English Language

Bilita Mpash (Bantu)
An amazing, pleasant dream. Not just a “good” dream; the opposite of a nightmare.

As many of you already know, I don’t tend to dream on the good side, so when I have an amazingly good dream, it kind of stands out. That said, I’m having a really hard time remembering the details of any. I know that one featured Jimmy Smits, and I had that one about ten years ago (so sad, really).

I can say that most of the dreams that I really enjoy involve falling/flying, as in I leap off something and float through the air. It isn’t at all scary. On the contrary, it’s the most wonderful feeling. An alternative is when I’m flying some kind of airplane. It’s the act of moving through the air unimpeded, under my own steam. I think that this is probably the key reason as to why I still want to go up in a glider some day. I don’t care how old I get, I still want to do this.

Parachuting doesn’t appeal to me because it’s over too soon. In a glider, you move through the air for miles. There is no sound but the wind. It’s just you, in the air, as close to being winged as possible.

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” ~ Patrick Rothfuss, from The Name of the Wind

Litost (Czech)
Milan Kundera described the emotion as “a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.”

I have encountered this emotion far too many times that sometimes I feel as if I’ve gotten other people’s share as well as my own. It’s a brutal feeling, realizing that you are miserable. It’s the exact opposite of the feeling I would imagine comes from gliding through the air. Instead, it’s being completely weighted down, leaden, held down by such intense gravity that even standing seems impossible.

More Words that Don’t Exist in the English Language

Litost. It’s both a beautiful word and a sad word, and that it is Czech in origin seems perfect, somehow.

Murr-ma (Waigman, language of Australia)
To walk alongside the water while searching for something with your feet.

I’m glad that this word is last as I have the best story to go along with it.

About a year after Caitlin died, we were at the beach in Nags Head, North Carolina. I was walking through the shore on my own, and I was moving my feet through the sand. I suddenly stopped, and within my head I pleaded to whatever gods that be to give me a sign, any sign, that things could get better. In the next second, my toes encountered something hard. I reached down and picked up the most beautiful perfect seashell. It was small, but it was there, and my heart suddenly felt hope again.

I’ve enjoyed this. I hope that you have as well.

More later. Peace.

Music by Colin Smith, “Organ in Your Chest”

                   

The Words Under the Words

for Sitti Khadra, north of Jerusalem

My grandmother’s hands recognize grapes,
the damp shine of a goat’s new skin.
When I was sick they followed me,
I woke from the long fever to find them
covering my head like cool prayers.

My grandmother’s days are made of bread,
a round pat-pat and the slow baking.
She waits by the oven watching a strange car
circle the streets. Maybe it holds her son,
lost to America. More often, tourists,
who kneel and weep at mysterious shrines.
She knows how often mail arrives,
how rarely there is a letter.
When one comes, she announces it, a miracle,
listening to it read again and again
in the dim evening light.

My grandmother’s voice says nothing can surprise her.
Take her the shotgun wound and the crippled baby.
She knows the spaces we travel through,
the messages we cannot send—our voices are short
and would get lost on the journey.
Farewell to the husband’s coat,
the ones she has loved and nourished,
who fly from her like seeds into a deep sky.
They will plant themselves. We will all die.

My grandmother’s eyes say Allah is everywhere, even in death.
When she talks of the orchard and the new olive press,
when she tells the stories of Joha and his foolish wisdoms,
He is her first thought, what she really thinks of is His name.
“Answer, if you hear the words under the words—
otherwise it is just a world with a lot of rough edges,
difficult to get through, and our pockets full of stones.”

~ Naomi Shihab Nye

“We must live together like brothers, or perish together as fools.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

 Civil Rights tshirt

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

“A community is democratic only when the humblest and weakest person can enjoy the highest civil, economic, and social rights that the biggest and most powerful possess.” ~ A. Philip Randolph

Apparently, the protests against Ordinance 64 in Anchorage have gone the way of many American protests in recent years: The reds are bussing people in from churches in nearby cities. By doing this, the antis are creating the appearance that the majority of people in Anchorage are against Ordinance 64.

Children Bused in for Protests by AK Muckraker of Mudflats
Children Bused in for Anchorage Protests by AK Muckraker of The Mudflats

Just in case you didn’t read my previous post, this ordinance is intended to expand the anti-discrimination law that is currently on the books by adding wording that would prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Now let me pause here. I am a big believer in free speech and the right to protest, but I am sorely dismayed by two things: Individuals who are not actually living in Anchorage are being allowed to voice their opinions in the open forum. This hardly seems to be fair play. The forum was created as a way to allow those individuals who live in Anchorage to voice their opinion before a vote is taken. The people from outlying areas are forcing an outcome that is not based on real data.

Now you may be thinking, ‘why doesn’t the pro side bus in some people?’ Well, I could respond that such a move is not normally employed by the pros, or if you will, those for the ordinance guaranteeing basic civil rights to all people. But that isn’t entirely true, and we all know it. Which brings me to the second things that dismays and disheartens me: Why do people who feel strongly about passing this ordinance not get out and join the protests?

As Janson commented on my earlier post:

I think the blue-crowd needs to remember that you have to show up and you have to be present to push for change. The reds know this. Every year I see anti-abortion demonstrations on campus. This is fine by me; they have a right and frankly I love to see students taking an active political stand in support of their beliefs (even if I disagree with them or disagree with the Rhetorical strategies they sometimes deploy). But when’s the last time I’ve seen a well-organized, effective Pro-Choice rally? Just for the sake of supporting Pro-Choice rights? How about, um… never? Maybe back at Florida State? Around 1994?

I rarely see proactive liberal demonstrations. A few Bush or Iraq protests are all I’ve seen in recent years. How about instead of arguing against something or someone, we argue for something? More pro-actively, more civically?

He’s right. The left doesn’t just protest for the sake of protest any more, and those of us who call ourselves liberal, pro-choice, pro-human rights need to remember that the opposition shows us time after time just how well organized they are. That type of willingness on their part to rush to the site of any protest is something that we on the other side should take note of.

If homosexuality is a disease, let’s all call in queer to work:  “Hello.  Can’t work today, still queer.”  ~ Robin Tyler

Ordinance 64 anti protest sign4Nevertheless, I still hold that some of the opposition’s signs are more ludicrous than effective. This one strikes me as particularly funny: “I was born Asian. You choose to be Gay,” as the picture  on the right shows. My response, as partially posted on Janson’s blog is twofold: “Well, I was born Asian, and I choose not to be stupid, uninformed, closed-minded, and bigoted.”

(And what’s with the peasant hat?)

And let’s not forget our science, people. Homosexuality is not a choice for most people. It is something with which they are born. If you don’t believe me, take a look at how homosexuality tends to run in some families. And I would contend that that is a strong case for nature not nurture, because in some of the families that I know of, those who are gay, hide it out of fear. These people will come out to their friends, but not to their families because they are afraid of becoming outcasts.

We still have so much more to do until more of those people on the anti side of the fence realize that homosexuality is not an abomination before god.  If the god of the New Testament is a loving god, how then do these people justify the hatred that they spew in the name of god?

 “When the government violates the people’s rights, insurrection, for the people and for each portion of the people, the most sacred of the rights and the most indispensable of duties.” ~ Marquis de Lafayette

June 20 protest image
Image from June 20 Protest

As for protests, the situation in Iran seems to be taking a turn for the worse. Approximately three thousand protesters defied the ban imposed by the Supreme Leader, and took to the streets once again. The police responded with tear gas, water cannons and guns, but no fatalities have been reported. Gen. Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghadam said on state television that officials “acted with leniency but I think from today on, we should resume law and confront more seriously . . . The events have become exhausting, bothersome and intolerable.”

An MSNBC report from around 3:30 EST states that Mousavi has indicated a willingness to become a martyr. Mousavi is still demanding an annulment of the June 12 elections:

In a letter to Iran’s Guardian Council, which investigates voting fraud allegations, Mousavi listed violations that he says are proof that the June 12 vote should be annulled. He said some ballot boxes had been sealed before voting began, thousands of his representatives had been expelled from polling stations and some mobile polling stations had ballot boxes filled with fake ballots.

“The Iranian nation will not believe this unjust and illegal” act, Mousavi said in the letter published on one of his official Web sites.

The Supreme Leader Ayatullah Khameini has ordered the crackdown. Accordin to Britain’s Times Online, Khameini declared that “‘those politicians who somehow have influence on people should be very careful about their behaviour if they act in an extremist manner . . . This extremism will reach a sensitive level which they will not be able to contain. They will be responsible for the blood, violence and chaos.” 

As to Khameini’s assertions that the protestors are being motivated by the West, President Obama, in the face of mounting criticism, is still taking a cautious stance, which I believe has allowed the protestors more freedom than if our President had come out in full support of the opposition. According to White House Spokesperson Robert Gibbs, the administration’s view is that Iranian leaders would use fiercer U.S. support for the protesters to paint them as puppets of the Americans.

In spite of this, Republicans led a Congressional Resolution that expresses support for “all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties and rule of law” and affirms “the importance of democratic and fair elections.”

John McCain on IranCertainly the U.S. embraces the values of freedom and human rights (sometimes), but coming out in open support of the Green Party will only escalate matters. Hawkish John McCain took the opportunity to slam President Obama on the Today Show and on Fox news, saying that the President isn’t doing enough and the U.S. should be more involved in the crisis. McCain must have a short memory.

The Congress is making statements that the U.S. should speak out because the protestors deserve their democratic rights. Iran is not a democracy. This is one important fact that those in favor of more harsh statements seem to be forgetting.

We must not forget how high tempers run in this country, and that Iran has never forgiven the U.S. for interfering in its politics by helping to establish the Shah Mohammed Riza Pahlavi as leader of the country during the Cold War. The repercussions for U.S. involvement in Iranian politics led to  the 1979 Iranian overthrow of the Shah and the subsequent capture of 52 U.S. diplomats who were held for 444 days.

 “Activism is my rent for living on this planet.” ~ Alice Walker

Hendrix, Jimi
Jimi Hendrix in Concert

On a final note, Corey and I were discussing Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower,” which was written by Bob Dylan in the 60’s. We were talking about possible interpretations of the song, and I suppose since I have protests on the brain, I was telling Corey that I thought the song, as Hendrix sang it, was about alienation. Dylan may have written it as a folksong, but how many people actually listen to the Dylan version?

“Watchtower is a Hendrix song, and it speaks to me of the great disillusionment felt by that generation, an entire group of young people who felt let down by their country, let down by the system, misunderstood by their parents, and greatly alienated from white bread society.

I’ll leave you now with two versions of the song: Jimmi’s, of course, and a pretty cool version by composer and musician Bear McCreary (music for “Battlestar Galactica”).

More later. Peace be with you.