Friday, March 07, 2008


Being surrounded by people from diverse regions of the world each having their own language, we often come across familiar sounds, words, proverbs and phrases that we discover and compare, revealing encoded moralities, ethics, value systems and perceptions of entire civilizations ingrained within the meaning of a single word. As if through the language we understand and build the world, through words with subtle differences that are so similar and often accidentally considered synonymous, but become exact in their meaning during a beautiful sunset or in the middle of a crisp argument.
During our meals we often have elaborate culinary conversations, with people talking about rotting, fermenting, aging of different expressions that describe fruits, vegetables, cuisines, and all this flavoured by prose communicating spices that many a times I feel reveal the spiciness simply through their phonetics. Like Italo Calvino’s story “Under the Jaguar Sun” words dissolve, marinate and become food, form and space. Kostas says language is like an organism, which requires people and food so that it survives and not by just talking or reading your language but engaging with it and giving birth to new words and new methods of arranging words so as to represent form and spaces and our new ideas about them. As I involve myself presently in the process of informally learning some light hearted Greek, I have become even more aware of how the structure of language even structures the experience of the world around. On comparing it to my mother tongue, I realise there are different objects, spaces, forms, our bodies, feelings etc that have been asserted the feminine or the masculine gender, my neck is feminine, the door is masculine, the tree is inanimate etc. With the pleasure of having a choice (and vice versa) between different words conveying the same meaning but to choose different genders I suppose turns the experience of the world into something much more beautiful than “it”.
In the Greek language different words with meanings get added and subtracted like a mathematical or design process in order to almost invent a new word like oplismeno skirodema......which is a word communicating reinforced concrete through combinations of “to support” +“strong”+”small stones” + “earth” and each of these words having multiple other connotations and references. The Spanish language seems to thrive on accents and slang that hides and reveals meanings based on which history one is a part of, but on most occasions everyone is your “socio”. The Japanese language through its words for numbers can reveal what is the nature of the object that is being counted and also sometimes its status simply through the number. When my Brit friend Tom asks “anyone fancies a drink?” at the end of a tiring day, I enjoy retorting “always a pleasure”......two sentences filled with enough desire, to turn going for drinks into a an absolute passion in a city with a fast eroding public realm.
So as we through language, assert pluralities, sexualities and history on forms and spaces, do our experiences of these spaces change as well? Is it that the very language used to construct and sell the idea of these spaces got reinforced through the process of their implementation? Or am I simply building myself an elaborate “baroque” trap that will keep me engaged in the process of ornamenting the language and convoluting the content?

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