Friday, 26 October 2007

A.W.A.D. - "There Is a Word For It"

A reader wrote:

"Dear Anu,

Some time ago I wrote to ask if there was a word in any language for a parent who has lost a child. My husband and I lost our son in the insane war in Iraq. You sent me a kind reply saying no. I am submitting this Pennsylvania-Dutch word, zeitlang, I found in the paper: http://ap.lancasteronline.com/4/pa_exchange_amish_shooting

I shared it with some other Gold Star families who liked the word and description. Yesterday was Gold Star Mothers Day*. I hate it. Everyone in the family is suffering, not just the mother. I like the sound of this Pennsylvania-Dutch word, perhaps because of my German heritage. So my family, my brothers and sisters in sorrow and I remain forever zeitlangers.

Sincerely,

Diane Davis Santoriello
Proud mother of 1st Lt. Neil A. Santoriello KIA 9-13-04 (dianesantoriello@hotmail.com)"

The English language has the largest vocabulary of any language but there are moments when all those hundreds of thousands of words in a dictionary might as well be random scribblings with little meaning. We can't find asingle word to describe what tugs at our hearts.

Pennsylvania Dutch is a dialect of German spoken by 17/18th century migrants from south Germany and Switzerland who had settled in Pennsylvania. The word Dutch here is a variant spelling of Deutsch (German language). Zeitlang in German means "while" (from Zeit: time + lang: long). The sense mentioned in the newspaper article is not found in German, but that doesn't mean onecan't extend it. After all, that's one of the ways a language grows. And what good is a language if it can't give voice to our deepest sorrows and joys?

This week we'll see a few words that do exist, words that make us say, "I didn't know there was a word for it."

* Last Sunday in September: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Star_Mothers_Club

famulus
(FAM-yuh-luhs) noun
An assistant, especially to a magician or a scholar.

[From Latin famulus (servant).]

caruncle
(KAR-ung-kuhl) noun
A fleshy growth, such as a rooster's comb.

[From Latin caruncula (small piece of flesh), diminutive of caro (flesh). Ultimately from the Indo-European root sker- (to cut) that's also the source of skirt, curt, screw, shard, shears, carnage, carnivorous, carnation, sharp, and scrape.]

lexiphanes
(lex-SIF-uh-neez) noun
One who uses words pretentiously.

[From Greek lexiphanes (phrase monger), from lexis (word or phrase) + -phaneia (to show).]

dewclaw
(DOO-klaw, DYOO-) noun
A small claw not reaching the ground, on the foot of some animals.

[Origin uncertain, perhaps from the fact that other claws touch the ground, but a dewclaw only brushes the dew on the grass. A related term is dewlap, a loose fold of skin hanging under the neck of an animal such as a cow.]

nosism
(NO-siz-em) noun
The use of 'we' in referring to oneself.

[From Latin nos (we).]

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