There was this German-exchange student in my class junior year.
She was basically fluent in english
and one day she turned to me really frustrated
and said, “I just talked to the cute boy with the locker next to mine and I’m having this feeling and I have no idea how to say it.”
And I said, “Maybe try words?”
And she said, “No- I know it in German, but there is no word in English.”
So, I was like “Can you use other words to try and explain it?”
And she said, “It’s Verschlimmbessern.”
And I said, “…bless you?”
And she went on to explain that it was the word for that situation when you mess something up and everytime you try to fix it, all you do is make matters worse,
and I was like, “You have a word for that? We just say that entire explanation.”
And she was like, “That is so much work.”
And I was like, “I KNOW RIGHT?! And also so sorry about your mishap with the cute boy.”
So I invited her over for a like sleepover thing and we stayed up all night as she told me all these weird translations of German words that we don’t have an equivalent for.
Some of the highlights were:
Kummerspeck- which literally translates to “sorrow bacon” and is the German word for “extra weight gained from emotional overeating”.
Schadenfreude is essentially that gratifying feeling you get when your piece of shit misogynist uncle’s third wife leaves him for another woman.
The Maasai people of Kenya have- I kid you not-
17 different words for the English word “cattle”,
And there is this language spoken in the Philippines that literally has like 20 for “rice”.
Don’t even get me started on languages that assign a gender to everything and everyone-
my toothbrush is a boy, my sandwich is a chick-
It doesn’t make sense!
I’m trapped in a box by language and it’s lack of ability to rise up to the complexities of human identity. If our experience and understanding of the world is so heavily based on the language we speak, then why do we limit our understanding with the language we create?
About the piece:
Retrograde is a one act musical that takes place inside of the mind of the main character, Z, as Retrograde Amnesia erases their memories from their brain after an accident. Through the piece, Z travels through memories that were formative in their identity and experience as a human- good and bad. This monologue takes place in the beginning of the play as Z is just getting to know this new world they are trapped in and are wandering and wondering amongst their many thoughts and existential questions about our experiences as humans.
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