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Poem: "What We Say in Passing" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "What We Say in Passing"

This poem came out of the July 6, 2010 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from siege.  It was sponsored by laffingkat as part of the 2010 Holiday Poetry Sale.  Happy Whateverday, and many thanks.

siege threw out two xenolinguistic tidbits, and of course I was off like a fox after a rabbit.  I added some bits from other invented and natural languages to explore how we greet each other...

What We Say in Passing


In English, hello  has no meaning
beyond its own greeting;
only the etymology tells us
that it came from Old High German halâ,
emphatic imperative of halôn, "to fetch,"
used especially in hailing a ferryman.
In Hawaiian, aloha  means "love,"
"affection," "peace," "compassion," "mercy" ...
and "hello" and "goodbye."
With this word we wish good things to each other
whenever we meet, pass by, or part.

The languages we build like model ships
carry our imaginations forward, farther --

A'hu e!  is a little blessing,
in north-continent plains draconic,
extending a benison from speaker to hearer.
O-nokth!  means merely "[you] walker," in mid-east teurathic
an observation that someone is there, and walking, used as
a friendly greeting to anyone, not just passers-by or those on a journey.
We are always blessed; we are always going from somewhere to somewhere,
but we do not always remark upon it.

Wil sha  says "Let there be harmony,"
for in Láadan lovingkindness is the rule and the goal
and the grammar.
nuqneH  says "What do you want?"
for in Klingon the prime consideration is enemy or ally,
an exchange of interruptions and favors and opportunities,
targets scattered all over the place.

In Torn Tongue, neither karal  nor haruu
has any other meaning beyond the hail itself
but karal  is heard only at close range
while haruu  calls from afar,
a hidden linguistic whisper of the importance of distance.

What we say in passing
is a glimpse of history, a chip of import,
hinting at a meaning too common for comment,
yet too true to fall away
even when we have forgotten its origin.

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4 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
siege From: siege Date: December 19th, 2010 05:05 am (UTC) (Link)
If you can believe it, I actually missed this one (as in, didn't receive a contributor copy). But thanks to laffingkat, everyone can see it now.

Thank you for writing this, and posting it now; events are conspiring to bring draconic language back to the front of my mind.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 19th, 2010 05:32 am (UTC) (Link)

Oops...

>>If you can believe it, I actually missed this one (as in, didn't receive a contributor copy). But thanks to laffingkat, everyone can see it now.<<

You're right; I don't have that noted as having been sent to you. I always try to send at least one poem to each prompter. However, if it's a busy fishbowl and some prompters inspire multiple poems, they don't always get to see the whole stack. Sometimes I wear out, other times I just plain lose track. Sorry for the miss, here.

>>Thank you for writing this, and posting it now; events are conspiring to bring draconic language back to the front of my mind.<<

Yay! I love encouraging other languages.
eseme From: eseme Date: December 20th, 2010 03:05 am (UTC) (Link)
I think I like the greetings that have additional meanings more. They seem less generic.

These days, even "how are you?" is generic and most folks aren't really looking for an answer.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 20th, 2010 05:23 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

I like the extra meanings too.
4 comments or Leave a comment