we are the flowers
of the dog days
we are the harebells
nodding on heaths
we are the meadow crane’s bills
we are the nettle-leaved
glowing in the shadows.
i love you and i don’t know what to do with that love…
— why do you have to do anything with it?
she smiles that to-die-for-smile. it signifies amusement of course but there is something of a challenge in it, a kind of provocation.
well for the first time in my so-called life, i know what not to do with it.
— oh? and that is…? (that smile again…) to apply to it a romantic narrative, a sexual narrative, one where i make you. or try to make you, subject to it.
for many people in this … situation, those are the only narratives available to them. because coming up with a different narrative is really hard! it’s like trying to name an entirely different primary colour or to try and imagine, let alone see, a different dimension.
what art did for me, in the end, long after i finished immersing my-so-called-self in it, was something of immense value : it enabled me to conceive of an entirely different way of thinking and working — and i got a glimpse of a different reality lurking under the one we all know and love and/or hate. and then it became abundantly clear that a radically different reality was urgently required and that is when i embarked on the impossible project.
Words are reality — this point should be noted, if not tattooed into the brain. A word represents but, in representing, it is. So what we say and write and read, in the most uncomplicated way, is real.
I appropriated this text from James McWilliams and changed the subject from ‘art’ to ‘words’. Apologies.
Láadan, a language invented by Suzette Haden Elgin for her novel Native Tongue (1984), republished by the Feminist Press this month, has a multitude of words to describe different types of love. “Azh” is “love for one sexually desired now”; “áazh” is “love for one sexually desired at one time, but not now”; “ab” is “love for one liked but not respected”; “ad” is “love for one respected but not liked”; “am” is “love for one related by blood”; “ashon” is “love for one not related by blood, but heart-kin”; and “aye” is “love which is an unwelcome burden.” These definitions show how a phrase like “I love you” is so open to interpretation that, in a sense, it’s actually meaningless. If a man says, “I love you,” does he mean, “I want to have sex with you now and that’s it”? (That’d be “azh.”) Or might he mean something more long-lasting and unconditional? (A word for this does not exist in Láadan.)
Láadan gives its words hyper-detailed definitions that make the otherwise implicit emotional tenor of words explicit. In a 1999 essay, Elgin explained why she created Láadan: “I saw two major problems—for women—with English and its close linguistic relatives. . . . Those languages lacked vocabulary for many things that are extremely important to women, making it cumbersome and inconvenient to talk about them.” She also felt that languages:
lacked ways to express emotional information conveniently, so that—especially in English—much of that information had to be carried by body language and was almost entirely missing from written language. This characteristic (which makes English so well suited for business) left women vulnerable to hostile language followed by the ancient, “But all I said was . . .” excuse; and it restricted women to the largely useless “It wasn’t what you said, it was the way you said it!” defense against such hostility. In constructing Láadan, I focused on giving it features intended to repair those two deficiencies.
Taken, more or less verbatim, from Cody Delistraty’s fascinating piece about Native Tongue and Suzette Haden Elgin’s work for Bookforum.#love #language #feminism