Friday, January 20, 2006

The trouble with the English language... that there are no words in it for the things that really matter.

For instance, why is there no English word that describes the glowing warmth that you feel running through you when you stand under a shower on a cold winter morning and give yourself utterly to the rushing water. A sensation that is both implosion and relief, a reassertion of the self wrapped in a cocoon of flowing warmth, a return to an ur-womb, where muscles become irrelevant. The temptation to just stay there, complicit in the moment's liquidity, safe in the privacy of a heat that no one else can share. And the terrible wrench of having to face the world afterwards, the enormous sense of loss you feel as you turn off the shower knob, sense the cold making its first lecherous advances - the moment passing as easily as the mist you wipe off the mirror to find your own face.

Why is there no word for the innocence of water, its essential forgivingness; for the ease with which it kneads its way through the skin of our defenses, its fingers more skilful than a lover's?

Every time I turn off the shower in the morning I am reminded of Dickinson:

Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.



ozymandiaz said...

I concur, but what language would contain such a word? The words comprising any language are developed to encompass the body of experience at the time of development. What language has been borne since running hot water and indoor plumbing? Not to defend the English language, I take it often to task myself. It is irregular and less a true language unto itself than any other being comprised of other languages. Yet the only languages young enough to have been brought into existence in the time of hot showers are computer languages and I’ve not seen one take a shower…

Falstaff said...

Oz: Ya, well, wasn't really quibbling with the language (where would I be without it) just general frustration.

As for computers taking a shower - the day may not be far away. See

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

I'm glad there is no one word for that feeling. If there was then you wouldn't feel like writing something as wonderful as this.

ozymandiaz said...

Yea I didn’t really think you were going after that point, I just had a bit of a tangent there. I often go off on the English language but most likely it’s a disdain for language in general even though I’m in awe of the whole process of communication. I’m pretty screwed up in that way. It is a wonderful post, though. I should probably stick to commenting that instead of my diatribes.

Anonymous said...

Well, if English did start having words that define that complex emotions with words, then most poets and authors would be out of job.

Now that isn't something we want. Right ?

Inkblot said...

Ooooooooo I can feel it,yes yes yes

notwithstanding what the others have said, why not invent words or a phrase at least-a secret one perhaps?

The Black Mamba said...

A russian buddy once told us about this word/phrase used to describe the steam that eminates from a freshly showered person (talk about sophistication?!). Apparently, this even apprears in the title of a famous(?) movie -

Ирония судьбы, или С легким паром. (kind of translates to - Irony of Fate or Have a good Steam)

Falstaff said...

Shoe-fiend: Thanks.

Anon: Perhaps. Or perhaps it would allow them to become both more nuanced and more precise at the same time.

Inkblot: A secret phrase, huh? How do you know I don't already have one?

BM: *with look of total incredulity* they have showers in Russia? You mean they don't just rub themselves down with vodka and go jump in the Dniepr?

More generally though, it's fascinating how each language will have a few specific words for which there is no equivalent in English - a friend of mine who speaks fluent German is always hitting me with phrases like that.

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