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Language & Liquids
I am an inveterate lover of beaches. Crashing waves, soft sand, and cool water….the utter deliciousness of a stolen nap in the sun. Perhaps best of all: the chance for some uninterrupted reading.
I just finished Lauren Collins’ When in French: Love in a Second Language, in which Ms Collins, an American, describes her experiences meeting a delightful Frenchman in London, marrying, then moving to Switzerland. Along the way, she discovers the difficulties of ‘translating’. Sometimes, this is humorous: the French equivalent of ‘to have your cake and eat it, too’ is something like ‘to want the butter, the money, and the a** of the dairywoman’. She also hilariously claims to have given birth to-as opposed to having delivered-a coffee machine. Other manifestations of the language gap are more frustrating: ‘We didn’t possess that easy shorthand, encoding all manner of attitudes and assumptions..’ Her husband puts it more succinctly: ‘Talking to you in English is like touching you with gloves.’ Spoiler alert: she learns French.
The takeaway-that we have a need to be understood, to be known, without translation or explanation-is not restricted to foreign language. Even in the same language, regional variation or contrasting life experience can make for disconnects. A native Midwesterner, I was raised to call the mid-day meal ‘dinner’, and the evening meal ‘supper’. My RI-born husband thinks that’s just strange. And there’s also my ‘other’ language: the language of liquids. When wine people or spirits people get together, we speak a shorthand that’s probably gibberish to most, but music to our own (geeky) ears.
During this pandemic, our various wine and spirits suppliers have been off the road. Suddenly, there was no Charlie showing up to discuss how the long neck of this still versus that one made a more delicate malt. No Manny stopping by with tantalizing old-vine Semillon. No George debating the merits of Nero d’Avola from Sicily’s southeast versus those grown in the shadow of Monte Cammarata. No Russell explaining the relative qualities of 5 obscure wild agaves. No new wines, no new spirits, no conversing in my favorite ‘language’.
Slowly-very slowly-we are starting to see our favorites again. Adjusting to the new normal, with limited appointments, standing 6 feet apart, masks removed only for tasting. I’m hopeful. Because hearing my other language-even muffled by a mask-is sweet music, indeed.