Thursday, December 20, 2007


A couple of posts by The Talented Mr. Lowenkopf have me thinking about words: his post on IEDs (Improvised Exploding Devices) and another on the "Son of a bitch" gift-giving plateau he hopes to attain this Christmas.

This particularly in the light of - firstly - the latest confrontation between LG and M which reached its own plateau with LG stomping upstairs and calling him - in a muttered subtone - a bastard, and with M deciding that such nomenclature was not, on this occasion, to be overlooked or tolerated.

The disagreement in question was concerning whether or not it was advisable for LG to buy cannabis lollies as Christmas gifts for her school friends. The context of the disagreement includes LG's hour-long detention after school today with a group who signed up to some club mandating social exclusion of and possibly further discrimination against one particular fellow pupil. LG says that she didn't know about the agenda of the club when she signed up, and certainly it doesn't seem likely to us that she would have done this knowingly, but nonetheless we fully support the school taking a hard line.

We are not very happy that there seems to be some staff complicity in scaremongering about the possible longterm effects of this incident: LG claims to have been told that this could go on her criminal record and on her permanent school record and that she could be excluded from school. At the very least she has learned, early on, a crucially important lesson about words (the power of), reading (the importance of), and signatures -(the need to be cautious with).

This context alone seems to make caution about the gift-giving advisable, it remains to be seen whether or not LG accepts our verdict on this one.

In other contexts, of course, use of the word "bastard" might have been received (and intended) rather differently.

[excursus : its so so very hard sometimes, this parenting thing of choosing your battles
wisely... In other LG news, there is an almost adamantium-hard frost this morning, but still
she will not will not wear a coat to school...]

The - secondly - other light casting interesting and illuminating shadows on this topic is a recent discussion with students in a class on science fiction. Suzette Elgin, by profession a linguist, has written a science fiction trilogy which begins with Native Tongue. The book explores gender issues and relationships and the power of words.

Living in a Handmaid's-Tale-esque future America of near-totally oppressive patriarchal power, a group of women begin to invent their own language. Giving them power to name and share their own distinctively female experience, this language has crucial liberating and revolutionary potential. Words, the author explains, are magical; they have the power to make visible things - experiences, concepts - which have before been invisible. In a reversal of the way in which Orwell imagined the annihilation of the concept of freedom through the forbidding of the word, these women (over generations) grow a language full of words ("encodings") which name their experience.

Here are some examples of "Laadan", the new language:

Raduth = "to non use", "to deliberately deprive someone of any useful function in the world, as in enforced retirement or when a human being is kept as a plaything or a pet".

Ramimelh = "to refrain from asking with evil intentions; especially when its clear that someone badly wants you to ask".

Dooledosh = "pain or loss which comes as a relief by virtue of ending the anticipation of its coming."

Doroledim - has no equivalent English meaning. “Say you have an average woman. She has no control over her life. She has little or nothing in the way of a resource for being good to herself, even when it is necessary. She has family and animals and friends and associates that depend on her for sustenance of all kinds. She rarely has adequate sleep or rest; she has no time for herself, no space of her own, little or no money to buy things for herself, no opportunity to consider her own emotional needs. She is at the beck and call of others, because she has these responsibilities and obligations and does not choose to (or cannot) abandon them. For such a woman, the one and only thing she is likely to have a little control over for indulging her own self is FOOD. When such a woman overeats, the verb for that is “doroledim”. (And then she feels guilty, because there are women whose children are starving, and who do not have even THAT option for self-indulgence…)”

and here is the festive bit:

Radiidin = "non-holiday" - "a time allegedly a holiday but actually so much a burden because of work and preparations that it is a dreaded occasion; especially when there are too many guests and none of them help".

I'm happy to say that this latter is not my experience of Christmas, though I'm sure it is for many. Particularly many women. This example always elicits a response of laughter but also recognition from students.

Are there words or experiences which you would want to incorporate in a new language?


Tats said...

I love that photo of your desk I came downstairs this morning to see all mine (similar)on the floor! Men! or is it just mine? LG...bless her cotton goth socks...

Lily and Agathe said...

PS... I knew Trac would love the purple velour sort of house coat thing!

Trac said...


tut-tut said...

hmm, thwarting ones own creative tendencies; is there a word for that?

Agree that it is difficult to know which battles to choose; and the time of day any particular incident occurs is absolutely critical in the tolerance/explosive level of any parental response.

Reya Mellicker said...

"Fiddlesticks" is particularly harsh and offensive as a swear word, don't you think? (giggling)

I'm sorry it's so hard to be a parent. I honestly can't even imagine what I would do in the same situation. Probably I would want to go and hide and hope things settled down. You see it's a very good thing that I never had a child! Good luck and much love to you, too.

christmas is so hard ... why???

Queenie said...

There are many words that come to mind, especially on Christmas Day. But thankfully after a couple of glasses of wine are in audible to my company!

Lee's River/Zlatovyek said...

words: the inuit have 31 words describing different types and qualities of snow - but no word for the concept of snow per se. truly sensations shape our perception shape our emotions shape our mental constructs shape our words that then shape what we recognize as our sensations,..., etc

e.g. battles (choosing of) ah yes, very, very difficult - I found myself at one point in time being pickier than an (old style) BBC copy editor before wording my comments on minimally acceptable behavior. At least when they're 2, their vocabulary (and options) are fairly limited. But then they grow up, and we've aided and abetted them in getting so damn SMART.
(Courage, this too shall pass.)

Akelamalu said...

Oh it's hard being a parent! :(

Words for a new language? I sometimes have trouble with this one - can I pass?

Lee's River/Zlatovyek said...

oh and Lettuce? I just clicked on the babel fish to read your blog in French. You are SOOO funny.

Squirrel said...

parenting is a challenge, parenting a teenager is ..cannot find right word...

kimy said...

parenting flashbacks. take comfort in knowing all will pass.

graffiti limbo!

oh my how does one pronounce these laadan words??? hilarious. merci

Pod said...

oh the pain of realising one must take responsibility for one's actions! fiddledy-de!

d. chedwick bryant said...

Pod channeling Scarlet O'Hara, who was not the best of parents--but she meant well I suppose. After all, tomorrow is another day. Hopefully, always a happier one.

Steve said...

Cannabis lollies? Who knew?? (The fact that they are only cannabis flavored makes them far less desirable gifts, I would guess.)

I am ashamed to say I was a member of a similar club back in school. We were never found out, and ironically, the subject of the club became one of my best friends and remains so to this day. (Would I ever tell him about that club?? No WAY.)

lettuce said...

Tat, i will take a photo of LG's bedroom floor - hidden under a squalor of goth socks, goth clothing, bits of old goth toast, all sorts of goth rubbish. Its shocking i tell you!

hehe tat and trac. you two! :o)

TutTut thats a good one, it could be a much used word. Yes, sometimes timing is everything.

teehee Reya, you are funny. and fiddlesticks to you. (and love) (dreamed about walking around NYC with you)

haha queenie - do share!

lee, thats the thing, isn't it? she sometimes is just too clever for me. (intrigued - am i funnier in french??)

akelulu, we get by ok. and the two of them are now talking again. (pfft!!)

squirrel hello! and haha. and me neither!

kimy you were in my dream too :o)

fiddle de doo dah dah. de dooby dooby doo. thats all.

hahaha, thankyou ched for that thought, pod channelling Scarlett! The first time I read GWTW I was left feeling rather optimistic for her. The second time I was sunk in despair realising there was no hope. I dare not ever read it a third time.

Steve I'm shocked. You always seemed so nice! ;op

Lee's River/Zlatovyek said...

lettuce: it's not that YOU are funnier - it's simply that the translation is so outlandish it makes invented languages seem really easy to follow. An example? Your daughter's stage - I mean, blog - name Little Gem gets translated into...the lander, as in someone who lands a plane.
Think about that for awhile. Once you've absorbed it, I'll give you more from the aptly-named babel fish. Cheerio!

Gledwood said...

Hello Lettuce!
I think I've passed by here b4 actually... I'm on a bit of a bloghop tonight... passing through innumerable American blogs... came to yours with your American style photo and was wondering what kind of American you are... when something told me that is NOT so... something in your language...

I just wanted to say a big hi to you and congratulate you on your lovely blog!

All the very best to you
and wishing you all the finest compliments of the season!

"Vol 2"...


lettuce said...

thats funny Lee. actually, its another interesting theme in SF - men and women as aliens to each other - when of course, its teenagers who are the true aliens.

hello gledwood, your name is familiar but i'm sure i'd remember someone so bright-eyed and furry. American-style photo - ?? Finest compliments to you too!

Gary said...

I must applaud you on the fantastic pictures you chose for the post. The covering with a paint roller was especially striking and I would love to explain why but I am sure you know.

I must say that even with the drama involved in parenting I am still envious of you both. I hope there is a child out there that will call me daddy some day. And I hope we find one another soon.