Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 26 February 2017

#713


The Linguist



(for B.)

Though she could converse in French
and German
you could see she was not a native:

She couldn't think in French
or feel it,
nor could she understand me:

O, she knew all about the language
of love
but so much is lost in its translation.
 
 
18 October 1989   
  
  
I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with languages other than English. I’m not a snob. I don’t think English is the perfect language, partly because language itself is inherently imperfect but more importantly because English is a fusion language co-opting shamelessly from everyone it encounters. I can understand completely why Beckett would’ve chosen to begin writing in French. He said it was because he wanted to get away from his mother tongue; writing in English somehow made it come too easy. The French language offered greater clarity and forced him to think more fundamentally, to write with greater economy.
 
I asked my dad once what language God spoke. Without batting an eye he said, “Hebrew,” reasoning that when God confused the languages at Babel he would’ve kept the original for his people. I don’t suppose it’s an unreasonable argument not that he had any way of proving it although following his reasoning it would probably have been Aramaic rather than Hebrew. (Interestingly the Quran thinks differently: “These verses are part of the clear book of guidance I sent you. I sent it in Arabic so its meaning would be preserved and understood by you.”— Sura Yusuf 12:1,2.)
 
B. knew French well enough to hold her own in conversation. I only witnessed it once with a Frenchman we met in the street and never saw again but it was wonderful to hear. I felt the same the one and only time I heard her sing even if it was in a duet. I’d written lyrics for our friend E. and the two girls recorded two of the songs. I stole the tape. Not sure I could lay my hand on it right this minute but I know I haven’t thrown it out.

2 comments:

Mary Holden said...

"I asked my dad once what language God spoke. Without batting an eye he said, 'Hebrew,' reasoning that when God confused the languages at Babel he would’ve kept the original for his people."

Your dad may know by now that the language of God is frequency and vibration in sound and tone! What I love so much is how a parent is always willing to provide an answer for their child (and I would have loved your dad, I feel).

Jim Murdoch said...

No, Mary, I’m afraid my dad will’ve gone to his grave thinking that. He wasn’t one for the scientification of God. God works so much better when his ways stay mysterious.

Ping services