A Loss For Words


There are so many feelings that flood my mind at the end of the semester that I am at a loss for words to effectively convey my emotions. The relief that I’m done with my classes mixed with the heartbreak of leaving treasured new friends. Bittersweet does not seem strong enough or accurate enough to tell the full story. As a writer, it’s tough to admit the English language oftentimes falls short of having the perfect word to express an exact emotion. For example, “Love” can mean so many different things to different people, at different times…and yet we have only four letters trying to say it all.

In most cultures, people have many words to describe what is important to them. Eskimos have over twenty words for snow and the French have endless descriptions for wine.  What words are important to Americans? Pizza? Couch? Internet? I’m almost afraid to ask.  The book “The meaning of Tingo” by Adam Jacot de Boinod is more daring than I. It explores interesting words from around the world, and their often very precise meanings. It tended to make me jealous of the beauty of other languages.

Even a senior moment is fun in Hawaiian. Just say, “pana po’o”, which means to scratch your head to remember something you have forgotten.  Goofing off sounds just as fun in Japanese; “bosabosa”. I can see myself being a “neko-neko” in Indonesian. That is one who has a creative idea which only makes things worse.  I would blush as the social consequences of a Turkish “fart”, which means talking nonsense.

The words to describe specific people are some of the most hysterical. In Japanese a “bakkushan” is a woman who appears pretty from behind, but not from the front.  In Yiddish they call someone who interferes with unwanted advice  a “kibitzer: but I just call her “Mom”. In the Congo they say “Iilunga” to describe one who is ready to forgive any abuse the first time, tolerate it a second time, but never a third. Maybe that is where we get three strikes and you’re out.  German words are always quite descriptive, like this one that just sounds like my husband looks.  A “Krawattenmuffel” is one who doesn’t like wearing ties.

America is such a melting pot that our language is derived from nearly all others.  It makes sense that oftentimes there is a familiar ring to words from other languages.  At GCC we are fortunate to have a diverse population of cultures. It can be very interesting to bridge the language barrier to learn new words from Japan, Mexico, or Hawaii.  Or perhaps, you could be of assistance in teaching someone new to our country the connotations of English words or slang phrases.  I did not know “pop” was another word for “soda”, and I only moved to New York from Virginia. Just my age prevents me from fully comprehending conversations from young people that are essentially English, or what passes for it these days.

Finally, I hope that this semester comes to a productive and pleasant end for my fellow students and esteemed teachers.  May the upcoming holidays and New Year bring hope and joy into each of your lives..  With the wisdom of a fortune cookie I wish “mingmu” for all.  That is Chinese for “to die without regret.” Suckle every drop of sweet necker your lives have to offer, for the breath of life will all too soon come to its bittersweet end.

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