Image from here
I’m a magpie. A great stealer of shiny things. Not real things, but rather words and accents and patterns of speech. I love listening to the way people frame themselves in language. The country they were born in. The places they’ve travelled. The tics and habits of a personal collection of meaning. And I thieve. A word here, a phrase there. I can track the people and periods of my life through the day to day language I use. “No worries” and “possums” from years of living with Aussies in London, not to mention the year spent in the land down under. “Hello Cherubs” and “daddells” from Toots, a wonderful friend who has a lovely baroque turn of phrase in her endearments. “Tartion”, meaning ‘attention’, from my friend S, who used the term imperially with family members to demand a hug or a back-scratch. I call my mother “dwergie”* expressly because Tall Al started it. In my own family, when we’re a bit tipsy, we’re “smudged”, thanks to my genteel grandmother who saw life in soft focus. And the weird noise I make when indicating that I might have done something bad? That sounds something between “meh” and “quack”? Well, that’s pure Ricklet and his penchant for getting arrested.
Then there is the language that evolves between people who’ve known each other for a long, long time. So long, that it’s almost a dialect. Mum and I have “double standards”, which are all about doing one thing in public, but being allowed to do the absolutely opposite at home. Like licking your plate. Or swearing like a sailor. With M, it’s largely unspoken, but we do have strange words imbued with meaning, like “fridge” and “BEETLE”. And let’s not forget the interpretive dance moves, which have become a physical lexicon for silly memories filled with stomach busting laughter.
But my favourite moment in the fluidity of a life’s language is when a new relationship starts to develop its linguistic patterns and idiosyncrasies. When the word *bite* can conjure up whole afternoons. When saying “wood” is enough to initiate serious giggling. When just saying “you” can deliver more mush than a team of huskies. When the words become the private language of “us”.
Ja. So, LB just for the record: *you*.
*which is Afrikaans for dwarf. Well, she is short.