(Mother Tongues & The Untranslatable)
From Elizabeth Boleman-Herring: This month, seven of Weekly Hubris’s regular contributors have written essays revolving around “Language,” which topic has provided us all with a lot of latitude (and longitude). I’ve written three-short-essays-in-one whose theme is . . . the foreshortened future of all communication among sentient beings on our shared planet. (Much reading I’ve been doing lately has convinced me that Homo sapiens is quite some way down any scale measuring sentience, sense, and sensibility, BTW. See “Orcas” and “telepathy,” just for example.) William A. Balk, Jr. writes this month about his mother’s progression into a realm where language no longer affords bright illumination: dementia. Helen Noakes waxes multi-lingual: a speaker of English, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, etc., etc., she provides a selfie in her most native tongue, body-language. Jerry Zimmerman writes lyrically, and specifically, about the lyrics (etc., etc.) of just one man: Bob Dylan, his generation’s bard and troubadour. Diana Farr Louis files an essay from Andros, in Greece, about communication when spoken (and heard) words fail us. Alexander Billinis, speaker of seven languages but master of none, offers some tidbits from his own experience talking cross-culturally. And Skip Eisiminger rounds out our offerings with a witty aside, riffing on Shakespeare (and assorted company).
By Way of Being
“At a Loss: Last Words,” By Elizabeth Boleman-Herring
PETIT TRIANON Florida—(Weekly Hubris)—8/1/2016—It is Day Two of one of my headaches, which usually last for three. It is morning, and I am in bed, my head wrapped in a black-and-white Yasser Arafat scarf, one forearm pressed hard against my skull and the other resting on my husband’s chest. It is on this latter arm that the jazz musician with whom I live is “playing,” with the fingers of one hand, a tune. A silent tune, as my skinny forearm is no trumpet. (Read more . . .)
“Body-Speak,” By Helen Noakes
SAN FRANCISCO California—(Weekly Hubris)—8/1/2016—My mother tongue is the mother tongue of most European languages, a fact I was pleased to discover when I took the vocabulary segment of my high school IQ test. But Greek is not only a spoken language; it has as well an entire “dictionary” of gestures, facial expressions, and sounds, which convey everything from delight to the most foul curses. (Read more . . .)
“In Translation: Losing a Language,” By William A. Balk, Jr.
ELKO South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—8/1/2016—Sitting across from each other, we are trying so very hard to communicate. I apologize to her repeatedly for misconstruing what she attempts to tell me. She searches futilely for the word I will understand, for the English word which holds her meaning. More time! More time. (Read more . . .)
Squibs & Blurbs
“My Life with Bob Dylan,” By Jerry Zimmerman
TEANECK New Jersey—(Weekly Hubris)—8/1/2016—The evening is cool and cloudy, finally dry after a short outburst. The small open stadium is alive and packed, intimate and personal. The stage is simple, outlines of instruments in the darkness with random pinpricks of reflected light. We are all holding our breath. Suddenly, a murmur, then a sea-swell of noise, a rushing roar as everyone stands and cheers at the same time. There he is. (Read more . . .)
Eating Well Is The Best Revenge
“Times To Keep Silent,” By Diana Farr Louis
ANDROS Greece—(Weekly Hubris)—(8/1/2016)—The cicadas are clattering, a shutter is banging, the cat who pretends we are hers is meowing, yet we are having a quiet lunch. The worst has happened—well, maybe not the worst, there’s always something more dire—my husband’s second hearing aid has self-destructed without warning. It’s brand-new and we are a two-hour boat ride and an hour’s drive away from the fixer. His other apparatus, which went kaput on Monday, is already there being repaired. (Read more . . .)
Roaming East Roman
“When ‘No’ Actually Means ‘Yes,'” By Alexander Billinis
CHICAGO Illinois—(Weekly Hubris)—8/1/2016—“Ne (No),” she said, in Bulgarian, to which I replied, “You know, of course, that in Greek, Ne means Da (Yes).” Talk about a recipe for confusion and misunderstanding, and we were dealing with one-syllable words alone here! At present, my own linguistic wheelhouse includes seven languages, most of which I learned on the road, rather than in the classroom. This of course shows in my creative destruction of accepted usage (subject-verb and gender agreement, and declensions in any and all of my languages). And my long-suffering, English-language editors all concur that I am a hazard on the printed page. Just imagine, I tell them, in my defense, reading me in German or Serbian! Indeed, my facility in several languages has certainly reduced my mastery of any one of them. (Read more . . .)
Skip the B.S.
“An Improbable Fiction: In the Language of Shakespeare,” By Skip Eisiminger
CLEMSON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—8/1/2016—“It’s an improbable fiction, to be sure, dating to about 1575, but thereby hangs a youthful tale by Willie Snackspoor. “Soft, my child. The post brings sad tidings that my once joyful mother is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought. Holp me if it please thee, for I have laundry to pound on Avon’s stony banks. For the nonce, bear this claret and these sweetmeats to our ailing kinswoman.” (Read more . . .)