The Insufficient English Language
I recently came to the conclusion that we speak a thoroughly deficient language.
Actually, this idea has been a rather long time in the making. It started coming last semester when my roommate was dating a very nice guy (of whom I heartily approve, which is completely rare), and we knew he was going to propose, but he hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Consequently, I couldn’t quite decide whether he was a boyfriend or a fiance (which, funnily enough, isn’t even an English word. Who came up with this?), because he seemed to be somewhere inbetween.
And so I had to fall back on a Spanish word (as opposed to falling back on a French word. Darn those Romans for influencing so many languages, and I can’t even speak most of them). Novio, which can mean a boyfriend or a fiance. So I figured it would probably work for someone inbetween. And it’s also shorter than saying “significant other.” And it also gives the illusion of a favorable impression. I mean really, how awful is it to meet someone’s novio, and then talk to someone else, and say, “Yeah, I just met so-and-so’s significant other.” That makes me at least sound like a complete and total snob.
What’s also useful about the spanish word is that at least a third of the population of the Western United States will be able to understand what the heck you’re talking about. With the invasion of Spanish on the English language, quite a few people will get it if you call someone a novio. Or a novia (girlfriend/female fiance). And hopefully now the percentage of people that will understand will go up by about a one millionth of a percent.
Okay, so in all honestly, we really do have quite a few words in the English language. I mean, we do have three very main dialects of the same language, which isn’t too bad. This is England English, American English, and Australian English. I’m perfectly aware that there are lots of dialects from each of those places (like how if I went to Queens, New York, New York, I wouldn’t be able to understand a single word that they were saying to me), but I’m ignoring that fact right now. Although in all fairness, hats off to all the people who speak Scottish-English and Irish-English. And Welsh-English. You are obviously braver than I.
But the problem is that we come up with words for the same thing. Like how in England something might be “dodgy,” but in the United States it’s “a little questionable.” Or how in England, Pants constitutes what we call Underwear. And that in America what we call Pants is what all you British people call Trousers. Or how we call something garbage/trash, and then in the UK it’s rubbish. And that’s still without taking Australia into account, because let’s face it, I know nothing about Australian English. Except that some people say things like Crikey. Which I’m sure is probably some kind of an unfair stereotype.
So even though we can come up with six different words for the same thing, like a cigarette or a shirt or something, we still haven’t managed to come up with sufficient words. Mostly I’m talking about the fact that we honestly don’t have enough words to describe emotions. In all honesty, I can’t help but think that we should have more of them. Something to do with the fact that emotions are something that every human being is forced to experience. Even psychotic serial killers experience emotions. So why are we so bad at describing them?
Take the word Love, for instance.
As much as I love the word “Love” (punny!), who came up with such a dreadful word? How can a word with four letters try to incapsulate an idea so huge? And so many ideas so huge? And why do we misuse it so much when we do use it? I mean, what do you think of first when you hear the word “Love?”
So why is it that when we try to talk to someone about Romantic love we find ourselves dithering around timidly and saying in a very small voice, “So– do you like him/her?”
Pitiful!!!!! We can’t even get around to using a word that doesn’t even describe the concept!!! We have to stumble over the concept and then use an even more deficient word. Like? Who came up with that? I realize that if we ask someone if they love someone then we’ll feel like we’re overstepping our bounds, but really? I might be with Marianne Dashwood on this one.
Elinor Dashwood: I do not attempt to deny that I think very highly of him – that I greatly esteem him… I like him.
Marianne: Esteem him? Like him? Use those insipid words again and I shall leave the room this instant.
Granted there are other words to describe the different sensations of love, but who really uses them? I have yet to hear someone claim that they are very amorous. If they did I think I would either give them a very strange look or give them a high five for using a something that resembles a larger vocabulary.
Funnily enough, it seems like we have less ways of describing love than we do anger, hate, or sadness. And even more odd, a lot of the words we use to describe our less than favorable emotions are much cooler sounding than those that describe our happiness or even our love. Like the word abhorrence. What a beautiful word, and yet it describes such a nasty thing! But maybe it’s just because it does it so well that I like it. It almost makes me wonder a little bit if we prefer to be angry at people just because we can use cooler sounding words to describe exactly how we feel.
Which means that I have a competition for you all now. Comment with a word that describes a positive emotion. It can either be real and out of a thesaurus or a dictionary, or you can make it up. I’ll send a prize to the winner!!! It might just be homemade brownie mix (but it is the best brownie mix IN THE WORLD!!), so then I will have quite literally given you brownie points! 😉 Points for originality and discriptiveness of the emotion.