Where is your placenta buried?
Or translated to the Seri language: ni quih zo’ hant ano tiij?
This staccato phrase is how a Seri would ask another where they were born because before the advent of hospital births, the placenta would be buried into the ground. These indigenous people are also known as the Comcaac before the Spaniards assigned them the name “Seris”. I also like the Seri expression for car: ziix hacx tiij catax, which translates to “thing that moves on its own”.
But my favorite word from another indigenous language (Yanghan) is:
Roughly translated: that expressive, meaningful romantic silence between two people.
Another lesser known language is the Quechua language. I highly recommend hearing its sing-song characteristic in an excellent film featuring one of my favorite actresses, Magaly Solier. The movie is called “Milk of Sorrow” or in Spanish, “La Teta Asustada” which translates to “the frightened teat”. The story encompasses a girl who lodged a potato in her vagina and the movie scenes are hauntingly beautiful and hesitant.
Thoughts about how we extract our feelings onto words originated upon finishing “Candide” by Voltaire. Ever since visiting his chateau in Ferney, France (“where sensitive hearts crusade to”), I have wondered whether I would find amusement in Voltaire’s witty writing despite the centuries past. The funniest part of Voltaire’s story was when the enchanting Princess of Palestrina escaped an invasion from her family palace and boarded a ship to Morocco with other royalties and servants — only to be met by vicious Moors who slaughtered all except herself. Fatigued from the battles, she awoke to see an old man admiring over her body and who responded in Italian, “What a misfortune to have no testicles!”
I recommend this short story filled with adventure, history, loyalty, and tragedy. The intense romantic notions of Candide for Cunégonde reflect Voltaire’s amorous writings such as in letter to his mistress:
No letters from you, it is heart-breaking, it is abominable. I write to you daily, and you abandon me. I have never missed you so much and never been so angry with you.
While Australia holds the unfortunate record of having the highest rate of vanishing languages, ways of articulating our feelings are becoming less eloquent. Even the simple letter “I” weighs in much bulk to carry in meaning what lies between the mouth and the mind. For example, the other day my father sent me a text message asking if I was going to be with the family for the holidays (which is a no, because I do not have time to be in the USA for the holidays), and he ended the question with “miss you”. Now, I know that the love of my father is unconditional and lacks boundaries but I felt that omitting the “I” from his “miss you” was too casual sounding. This is why I refrain from saying “love you” and make sure to insert that singular letter to make the phrase “I love you” more significant.
Perhaps social media and emailing are providing the influence to exclude certain words and letters from phrases to give a summarized view of our true feelings. Maybe one day instead of laughing with our friends at the dinner table, we will start to exchange mere “LOL”s.
Nevertheless, this holiday season when you are with your loved ones, whether it be with
your significant other
…and if you cannot find the words to convey your emotions, offer a hug…a kiss…a laugh. Do not let that language disappear.