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Friday, April 19, 2019

Words in the Lost and Found

Driving across the Samana peninsula, we found
a new graveyard under construction.
I have been losing a few words lately. Most frequently the missing words are nouns. Misplacing them like I do my shoes. I know I have them somewhere and yet, when I need them they seem to have gone walkabout. It’s most frustrating. 

The bulk of the people of the DR live like this family.
I have known several Speech and Language Pathologists (aka Speech therapists) in my career and so I know that while it is not uncommon to misplace words now and then, especially when one is feeling pressured to remember a particular word, it is not a natural part of aging. Not everyone misplaces their words as they age. Why couldn't I be one of those people?  
Fence repair 

The other day I could not for the life of me find the noun “pelican.” I was looking right at the bird; I wanted to quickly point out something the bird was doing and I could not find “pelican” in my word bank.  A shadow of the word I wanted seemed to be hiding nearby in a fog, but the word itself was….poof, unable to be found.

Small houses, outbuildings line the road across the
Because I could not name that darn bird, I was forced to describe it……”Ohhh, you know… big bird, big beak and gullet, eats fish whole, funny-lookin’.” My husband quickly supplied the label, “Oh, a pelican.” Of course by then whatever I was trying to point out was long gone. The moment lost. 
the town of Las Terrenas, away from the beach

We have been in Spanish-speaking countries now for a while. The Dominican Republic now and Colombia  in March for my stepson’s wedding.  I worked hard on improving my Spanish before going to Bogotá for the wedding. 
Local artists' work near El Limon waterfall.

The really surprising thing about misplacing nouns is that—while I'm occasionally unable to find the English words I want, I am finding Spanish words from 45 years ago! Words I probably never needed for use in conversation and don’t need now. Spanish nouns sometimes appear out of nowhere; words I did not know that I had ever learned, right when the situation calls for it. 
Many homes have spectacular views of the ocean
on the north side, or the Bay on the south side

Yesterday when I heard someone say, “Oh they have rabbits here.” I surprised myself by translating silently,  “Conejos” (ro. cone AY hose). “Tienen conejos aquí.” Easy as pie.  So, it appears that I inexplicably retained the Spanish noun for “rabbit,” perhaps in trade for the English noun “pelican?” Unbelievable.
Frequently see people riding horseback along
the highway

I know I’m not the only one who can’t find words when needed.  Recently my husband was preparing to climb down inside the lazarette and he was gathering together the tools, etc needed for this foray into the darkness of the hull. At the last moment, he points and says, “Could you hand me my……………footers?” We laughed. Footers! Hah! “Yes, indeed, my husband, here are your shoes.” 
Parrot owner wants a tip from tourists
when the bird perches on their shoulder.

Isn’t this just ridiculous? Common ordinary words disappear willy nilly, but yet, there is enough room in my head for unnecessary nouns in a foreign language, words like “conejo” which I’m pretty sure I can get along without quite happily. I mean, it’s not going to be on any menu. Why do I need that noun? 
Atlantic Ocean beach on north side of Samana
peninsula. Surrounded by resorts.

And if I did need that word, I could just describe it.…”Sabes, pequeño mamífero, orejas grandes, le gustan las zanahorias, el lúpulo.” (You know…. small mammal, big ears, likes to eat carrots, hops…” And you could say, “Oh, conejo.” Or "rabbit" if you prefer.
New friends accompanied us to the falls
and the north side of Samana peninsula

I’m going to miss speaking Spanish when we leave the Dominican Republic to head further north. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t speak well enough to always understand the answer I get when I’ve asked a question. When people speak quickly, I may as well give it up, but sometimes people are willing to speak “más lentamente, por favor.” More slowly, please. And it's great when they use commonly used verbs. 
Rafaela, took care of my horse and my
clothes while i swam under the waterfall.

Yesterday I had a lovely little conversation with a guide who accompanied me while the horse, Luzario, carried me to the falls at El Limón, a 30 minute mountain trek. I understood most everything she said. It felt gratifying to be able to converse with this kind, simple woman. 
El Limon falls

I found all my Spanish words as needed. She asked to be paid her tip (propino) before returning the horse to the handlers because the other workers would otherwise take half of her days’ earnings.  She smiled warmly and patted me softly on my leg in the stirrup. “Gracias, mi amiga.” 
Carl's guide and horse tender

Well, here is where I’m at with the lost and found words— the next time I can't find an English word, I’ll use the Spanish noun, if I have found it.  Maybe it’ll shame the English noun to come out of the shadows. And that darn bird whose name I could not find in English? I have it in Spanish now—it’s “pelícano.” So there.
Horses bring many people to the falls each day.

I enjoyed a horseride--it's been a while.

1 comment:

Deb said...

I've got the same issue so at least you have company.