What do our words really mean?

I was brought to tears by an essay by the writer Natalie Diaz. She writes of the dilemma that most of us who write and speak face: What do we mean when we say or write _______? However, those of us who are monolingual don’t have much to compare our language limitation(s) to. Diaz is multilingual and she shares the limitations of English through the lens of Mojave. After reading the first paragraph of her essay I wanted all of us to speak, write, read and understand Mojave. Or any language that could express in an active and visual way what I really mean when I say anything heartfelt, true, or real. And no, I’m not entertaining a desire to leave or deny my roots. This post has nothing to do with that. I proudly, solidly and gratefully stand on my ancestors shoulders.

Diaz begins with: “In Mojave, the words we use to describe our emotions are literally dragged through our hearts before we speak them…” I only write and speak English, but I feel more than I can often write or say and I often feel keenly the limitations of the language I have access to.

Here’s a link to her brilliant essay:

http://blog.bestamericanpoetry.com/the_best_american_poetry/2014/03/if-what-i-mean-is-hummingbird-if-what-i-mean-is-fall-into-my-mouth.html

I needed to hear what Natalie Diaz had to say, and I’m sure I’ll be returning to her words often as I chip away at the language I use to write poems, fiction and love notes.

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2 thoughts on “What do our words really mean?

  1. Thank you for writing this. In Canada the same thing has happened to aboriginal children. They are taken from their parents, put into boarding schools, punished for speaking their native language. Since the boarding schools provide inadequate education these students are limited in their future lives and have no heritage to fall back on. ~ Dennis

    • Thanks Dennis, your comment encourages my thinking that it’s a good thing that there are people like Natalie Diaz who are working to sustain their heritage and teach those who will hopefully keep the culture alive.

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