Category Archives: Language

Little Wanderer

Bear with me today. I have a cold and my brain feels SO HEAVY rattling around in my skull. I’m not sure if any of my thoughts are going to make any sense, but it’s a while since I shared any regardless, so here goes.

I’ve been listening to Kintsugi (by Death Cab for Cutie, for the uninitiated) on loop for about the last month. And it’s amazing how when you go back to music you hear lyrics differently, or in a new way. I didn’t love their previous album, Codes and Keys, and I think I gave Kintsugi a cursory listen before setting it aside and deciding that I’d only listen to Plans for the rest of my life.

Then I got tickets to see them again in January, and I felt I should catch myself back up. Boy am I glad I did. Your mindset is everything about how you appreciate music, and I appreciate Kintsugi now because I think I have a “kintsugi” mindset. For those who have not yet run to google, let me explain:

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise

And I mean, how great is that. To recognise that everything about our journey is worth displaying, and that patched-up things can still be beautiful, maybe more beautiful than the original version.

The track I’m particularly fixated on is ‘Little Wanderer’, which I maybe didn’t ever make it to on my first listen, or allowed to blend into the background. I have no idea how, because now that I have given it time I’m falling in love. I think that Death Cab construct their tracks perfectly (I’ve always adored ‘Summer Skin’ just for the structure of the piece instrumentally) and Little Wanderer is rapidly climbing to those dizzy heights.

I also love it because it reminds me of travelling, and that’s something which I’ve not done for so long, I’d slightly forgotten the joy of it all. Today I went and watched Mamma Mia 2 (singalong, of course) and that also reminded me of travelling, and seeing the world in technicolour, and finding the things you love, and leaving the things you love behind, and knowing that they’ll still exist even if you’re miles away.

I apologised at the start, because I knew this post would run away with itself, but here’s what I think I’m trying to capture – I’m so proud of all of my experiences, even the ones which left me a little broken and in need of some repair, and I love having cause to look back on all of the things I’ve seen and all the places I’ve seen them. Here’s to making memories and mistakes, and finding the things you love and knowing that you can go back to them.

Secret Boudoir, Ultimate Man Cave, Apocalypse Bunker

If you haven’t watched “Amazing Interiors” on Netflix then I thoroughly recommend it. It has been a long day, but now I get to relax and watch a mad American transform a field of bunkers into luxury survival palaces, while a little Italian man expounds his love of faux-baroque design in totally comical French.

It does remind me, however, that I really need to do something with my house. Not that I haven’t done *things* since I moved in, it’s just I haven’t really got round to many of the fun things. I’ve repaired the roof (or rather a fully qualified team of people repaired my roof), I’ve had wiring checked and amended, and I’ve had meters installed. But that’s not fun.

The next plan is to sort out the kitchen. It needs a couple of coats at least of magnolia or cream, to brighten it up and to cover the greasy hand-marks left by my predecessor’s kids. I’m looking forward to getting my Cinderella poster up on the wall, though the fact that it is 5 and a half years since the show is a bit of a sore point.

Next, I’ll move onto the office, which is currently a very fetching shade of yellow. I haven’t decided yet what to do with it, so all suggestions are welcomed – it just needs to continue to house all of my many things, so I’ll probably be avoiding busy wallpaper and things (though there is one wall which is a contender for Marvel wallpaper – depending on quite how young I’m feeling on the day).

In the meantime though, I’ll keep watching Amazing Interiors and making plans for the madness I can inject into my tiny piece of land – maybe by hiding exciting graffiti behind every door, or painting all of the ceilings gold. The possibilities are endless.

Get Found

I love getting lost. Not “I-was-meant-to-arrive-half-an-hour-ago-and-I-still-can’t-get-off-this-ring-road” lost (a frequent type of lost I encounter), but the kind of lost where you’re wandering along and then look up and realise you’re somewhere new and interesting. The kind of place you only find accidentally, probably because you’re already lost in your own thoughts.

I hate feeling lost, however, which I feel increasingly often. Sometimes it feels like the world is moving very quickly and I’m struggling to keep up, and I don’t have people there to egg me on in the same way, or help me work out which direction to go when I get confused and scared. Or rather, I have some people, and those people are great (cheers to those people) but they can’t always be there, and sometimes I lose them as well accidentally, and then it’s all just a whole bundle of lost.

So, like everything in my life (apparently), I’ve approached it from a linguistic point of view. Why am I worried about feeling lost, or being lost? Maybe I should just be focusing on getting found.

And before we continue, let’s clarify what we mean by get found. I am not looking for talent scouts. Photos of me are not posted somewhere on the internet (except here, and Facebook, and Instagram, and…shut up). I just mean getting that feeling of comfort you get when you’re in a place you know really well, or with people you know really well. Warm and fuzzy and home.

A great way to get found is to make everywhere feel like home, so I’ve been paying more attention when I walk. Which is more impressive when you remember quite how obsessive I am about my surroundings and seeing new and interesting things (for reference, my instagram)

I know that 10 years down the line (if blogging/the internet/the Earth still exists then) this is going to be one of those posts that I look back on and cringe, but right now, this is the thing I want to capture. Sometimes, life is scary, and it takes you in directions you weren’t expecting which almost always means you don’t end up where you’d planned. Don’t let it get to you. You don’t have to feel lost, you can find yourself (this is the cringe moment, you’re welcome) instead.

Careful the things you say

A couple of years ago, I think if you had asked people what I most commonly said, they’d have replied immediately “sorry” – I used to constantly apologise. For just existing most of the time. I’d apologise if something went wrong in my presence, even if I was completely uninvolved.

I apologised so much that in the end, my other half told me it didn’t mean anything to him any more. Despite the fact that (still) whenever I say sorry I mean it in a very heartfelt way, that was now totally lost on him, and no doubt on other people as well.

I still apologise a lot, but I think I’m a bit better at it now. And instead of apologising, whenever I can, I say thank you instead.

Now, I hear what you’re thinking. Thank you is not the same as sorry. But hear me out on this one.

  • Sorry that I got annoyed/angry/said the wrong thing -> Thank you for being so understanding
  • Sorry I did something wrong -> Thank you for helping me out in that tricky situation
  • Sorry I was late -> Thank you for waiting for me
  • Sorry I didn’t reply -> Thank you for following up/taking the time to find out how I am

It works. And mostly I think it works because people don’t like hearing the word sorry. It implies blame, and often it’s blame which they haven’t placed. Saying sorry can make people feel guilty that they’ve made you feel bad, but saying thank you just reassures them that you are aware of the imperfection of the situation, and you appreciate the part they have played in it.

It’s not a big change, really, and honestly I still apologise ALL THE TIME, but I do try now to really think about when I can show my gratitude for the effort that people put in for me.

You’re welcome, and thank you.

Voiceless

I have spent the last 3 days with my voice dipping in and out of action (punctuated by very aggressive coughing). It sounds a lot worse than it is, which makes it fairly funny, particularly as my job involves quite a lot of talking.

I’m good at talking, as a general rule. In the right context. I’m very good at talking to your nan, and I’m fairly good at talking to people who are more senior than me. I’m good at being ‘bubbly’. The talking I’m best at is thanking people profusely, or apologising a lot for things which are completely beyond my control. Which, for the record, is always genuine. I am just a very apologetic person.

I’m not great at speaking other languages (as previously discussed, at length), but I am good at talking about language. Which is probably a bit confusing. And definitely very nerdy. But I’m quite proud of it, really.

However. I am very very bad at one specific kind of talking, and that is talking to people of roughly my own age in a social context. Particularly in a vaguely romantic context.

Apparently, past me thought this might be conquered by the internet. I might be terrible at talking, but I’m not terrible at writing (dear lord, never read back to the start of this blog if you believe the last phrase). I figured that hiding behind an internet profile might help me talk to more people. And it has, technically.

But the thing is, if you talk to someone long enough on the internet, eventually they might want to meet up with you. My research shows that no amount of talking on the internet prevents awkward silences and staring into drinks in real life. It’s not fun. It’s probably quite fun-ny, and it makes for fairly good anecdotes (there’s another kind of talking I’m good at – laughing at myself) but it’s not fun at the time, it’s just difficult.

I always used to think I was an extrovert, but as I’ve grown up I’ve realised I’m really not. I’m just an outgoing introvert, who turns into an actual introvert the second social interaction is involved. I always thought that being talkative was what made you an extrovert, but recently someone explained that it’s more about where you get your energy from, and I do not get my energy from other people. It takes all my energy away, which is probably why I freeze up so much as soon as I’m around a person I actually want to talk to.

I’m sure that one day I will learn how to do the talking to the people, but for the moment I am going to continue voiceless.

And not only because I cannot shake this ridiculous cold.

Twenty Eighteen

What can I say about 2017. It has been a horrible year. Not all of it, of course, in fact a great deal of it has been wonderful. Sometimes it just feels like the bad overshadows the good. I’m very optimistic that 2018 will go the other way.

I don’t *do* New Years’ resolutions, because I fundamentally disbelieve the idea that you can begin new things in January. It’s cold, and horrible, and all normal people should want to be constantly wrapped in blankets and fed cheese.

That therefore means that these aren’t resolutions, they are just aspirations for my 2018.

  • I would like to smile more. I am irrepressibly optimistic (it’s frankly quite annoying) but I am not sure I really smile very often. This year I’d like to smile more, and find lots of reasons to smile.
  • I’d like to improve my overall health. I’m still very prone to illness (misc) and I still have achey joints, and I definitely believe these are fixable things, with a little work.
  • For years I’ve been trying to learn German, and Greek, and a whole variety of other languages. I’m not sure I’ll ever really learn them (despite the 6 years of university, I’m not a natural linguist) but I would like to try and use them, by going to more places.
  • Lastly, I’d like to learn how to rest. It seems so easy when other people do it, but my brain just buzzes away and won’t let me stop, and actually that’s probably causing the lack of smiling, and the illness, and probably the inability to focus on learning a language to be quite honest. So learning to rest is my final aspiration.

Resolutions are a lot of pressure. It’s ok to leave them for a while (I totally stand by April Resolutions) and just begin the year with a few nice aspirations.

After all, the one big positive of having a horrible time is that from here, the only way is up.

Songs for a New World

The future is global, regardless of the whims of the BNP or Donald Trump, or Katie Hopkins (a woman who should genuinely be shot into outer space and left to shrivel up alone). And so, to celebrate this fact, I’ve decided to compile a list of songs I love in languages other than English.

This post may also be fueled by Boyfriend’s obsession with the first track.

Despacito – Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee
This is everyone’s favourite tune at the minute, and I have to say, it’s pretty catchy. Particularly without unnecessary Justin Bieber.

Aicha – Khaled Sahra
My mum used to listen to this when I was younger, and get me to translate the lyrics for her. I have no idea how I did.

Ai Se Eu Te Pego – Michel Teló
Catchy AF (here AF standing for “and forgettable” because I can never remember the name of it and then end up just searching for vowel sounds until I hit the right few)

Adiemus – Karl Jenkins
I’m not sure if this counts, because it isn’t actually in a language – it’s been designed to just sound calming but structured.

Ya Banat – Nancy Ajram
This was played to us in one of my Uni classes, and I don’t know how you can’t love this song, even if just for the video.

Que me quedes tu – Shakira
She had to make an entry on the list somewhere, right? Because she’s the queen of my entire life.

Bonustrack – La Oreja de Van Gogh
Spanish language songs were always likely to dominate this list, because I am biased towards my own language base, and there is something about this song which has always just made me smile.

Major Tom – Peter Schilling
I am historically not a fan of German, because it has too many genders and cases, and LOTS of syllables. But Deutschland 83 and its amazing soundtrack definitely won me over.

Volare – Domenico Modugno
It would be wrong not to recognise Eurovision as the home of all the best music, and Volare just feels like the right choice for peak Eurovision.

Metaphorically Speaking

Who doesn’t love a metaphor? Only unfun people who don’t enjoy language, that’s who.

Here is an example of a metaphor. I am a match. What do you mean, I hear you cry (my imaginary friend). Well, I am mostly beige, apart from my head which is bright red and also on fire.

I accept this isn’t a great metaphor.

It’s totally true though. The colour that my face goes when I exercise is a sight to behold. You can feel the heat radiating from my cheeks from 10cm away, and I go a violent shade of red. It is not a healthy colour. I look like I’ve been running from a maniac with a kitchen knife. I imagine.

The reason for the redness and heat is that I have enough energy almost every day lately to exercise. Which is phenomenal,  and hasn’t happened for the longest time (/or maybe since last summer, idk). So I am. Each day this week I have done a 10 minute strength circuit, a 10 minute circuit or either arms, legs, or abs, and then 10 minutes of cardio. And then a cooldown.

And I feel I should note that it is so irritating when workout videos don’t actually explain “child pose” or “upwards facing dog” just as you are in a yoga pose that forces you to stare at the floor. But I cam get over it.

Basically, summer y’all. It is great.

Powerful Weapons

Words are powerful weapons.

One of the most powerful words in the world right now is ‘terrorism’, and we need to stop giving it so much power. Terrorism is the act of inciting the sentiment of terror within a person, or a group of people. That happened yesterday, sadly, in the city of Manchester, and it was perpetuated against a group of innocent bystanders. It was perpetuated against children.

Today, the media stormed in with questions about a ‘terrorist attack’ or an ‘act of terrorism’. But that’s not what it is. It’s a crime, committed by one or more violent criminals. And those criminals are getting what they want the second we call it terrorism. Because when you give it a name, you give it power and agency, and you allow the world to believe that the effect of the attack is that it terrifies you.

We are not terrified. Appalled, yes. Distraught, yes. But not terrified.

This is something which the western media has been perpetuating for years now, and it’s a mirage. It’s a narrative which continues to exist in order to protect the people who are spending money waging the “war on terror” as if war against a sentiment is a meaningful act. It’s a war we’ve already lost, every time we allow acts of barbaric violence to be termed “terror attacks”.

Don’t become part of the narrative. Don’t allow yourself to be sucked into the rhetoric of “extremists” (because many people are extreme, but they don’t always kill others), or “religious motivation” (because many people are religious, and see above). Don’t be fed a lie of the stereotypical terrorist, because that person doesn’t exist. Terrorists do not exist. Dangerous, damaged, often exploited people with an agenda to attempt to incite the feeling of terror do. Let them terrify you and they have achieved their aim.

And as an addendum, don’t let acts like this cloud your mind on national and international policy. The media are a tool of the powerful, and the powerful want to continue subsidising their empty war. Don’t be forced into the belief that the “war on terror” is necessary, or effective. There are many great threats in the world. The word ‘terror’ is not one of them.

This word is a powerful weapon. Do not be threatened by it.

Definition

The internet defines definition as:

but that probably doesn’t really cover it.

Definition is complicated, because it’s quite subjective, for something purported to be ‘exact’. My definition of something might be completely different to someone else’s, and it’s easy to trip up when you begin trying to apply your definitions to the wider world. You learn quickly that if your definition clashes with someone else’s, you’re probably in for a rocky ride.

This train of thought stems from a comic by a lovely artist called Ruby, which I saw last week. The comic is about a person being instantly pigeonholed by the person they are talking to, and the message is about not defining people by a single trait. It’s a message I totally agree with, but wow, did it generate some discussion.

In particular, one commentator stated that you are defined by your actions – so if you paint, you’re a painter, and if you’ve got soul then you’re a soldier, etc. Which is definitely one way to develop a definition, but as was pointed out in response, might mean you define someone by their least favoured action or trait.

The thing is, some people get angry about this. They see it as presumptive. But we need definitions  to make sense of the world, and until you are told that your definition of a person is subjectively wrong, you will naturally ascribe them the definition which best suits them according to your understanding.

I’ve moved around a lot in my life, particularly through my childhood, and I am bad at answering the question ‘where are you from?’ because I haven’t properly decided my own answer. Or it varies with context. So I don’t mind that some people see me as Northern and some as Southern. But I do mind when people use their definition of me to assume something about me. Like, that I’m Southern so I don’t like mushy peas. Or I’m Northern so I never feel the cold.

These are obviously small examples, but this applies on a massive scale. We now live in an age where people are encouraged to self-define, but by doing so they often end up in someone else’s definition by mistake. You said you were this, so you must be XYZ. And if you’re not, you can’t be in the gang.

What’s your point, Sally? I hear you ask. Glad you asked, world.

My point is, don’t impose your definitions on other people, and don’t be offended if they have a different definition from you. If it’s you they are defining, correct them. Explain your side as far as possible. Recognise that they may have existed until this point never meeting anyone like you because there is no-one else like you. We need definition in life, to understand the world around us, and our place in it. If someone has misunderstood you, help them understand. If you’ve misunderstood someone else, don’t let their self-definition force you to try and find a box to put them in. They might not fit there. That’s fine.