Language is a beautifully complex creation of the human mind. Individual cultures and the languages that they speak feed and thrive off of one another. Therefore, it is not so unheard of that many of these dialects will evolve in different, though similar, directions. There is a beautiful thing when you find a word that does not easily translate into your own native tongue. Usually it is something that you deeply understand, a word that makes you go ‘aha! why don’t we have this already?’ Take ‘mamihlapinatapei,’ a Yagan word that is best described as ‘the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start.’ I’m guessing this is a look that you can picture right now. And yet in the English language we have nothing simple to describe this scenario. And then there is the Yiddish word ‘shlimazl’ which roughly means a perpetually unlucky person. What about ‘jayus,’ an Indonesian word that means ‘a joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh.’ Personally, I am an expert in the jayus. In fact, I think that’s going to be a new staple in my vocabulary. I find the study of languages and their eccentricities and divergence to be deeply fascinating. And while I could probably go on for pages upon pages with different examples, I am going to leave you with the one that started this whole article.
You see, apart from my quickly worded jayus (I don’t know if I used that correctly, and I can’t help but wonder if there is a plural form of this), there is another word I discovered that touches me on a deeply fundamental level. Tsundoku is the Japanese word that encompasses a difficult aspect of my life. This is my chosen art form: it is the act of buying books that pile up unread on your shelves. If this were a crime, I would be serving a life sentence.
It’s not that I don’t respect the books, no, that was never the issue for me. It is that my love for them goes so deep that I cannot say no when I see something that I want. Especially when it happens to be on sale. I have always had an obsession with books, even when I was a little kid- I owned more than I was able to cram into my overflowing bookshelf. They were stacked beside, on top of, and in front of one another (and this does not include the pile usually precariously placed beside my bed). As all small children do, I eventually grew up, and a glorious thing happened. I got a job. And with a job came money. What was a young enterprising eighteen year old woman to do after buying a few stylish work outfits? Run down to Borders (oh yes, how I miss this chain- I don’t know how they could have possibly gone out of business considering I might as well have set up my direct deposit to go straight to them). Obviously, this was before I grew up enough to have a mountain of bills to chip away at. But the love for the crisp paper and dark ink has never abated. Granted, it has expanded- with limited storage space and a frustration with mounds of clutter, I have evolved into an e-book carrier on top of my vast array in my actual bookshelf. It’s a good thing too- it is much easier to stay on my fiancé’s good side when my literary loves are only taking up space on my tablet as opposed to drowning him in even more cleverly placed bookshelves.
I am not even remotely ashamed of this love of mine, I display my books proudly, I keep my myriad of reading devices beside my bed or in my purse at all times. You will never find me without something to read within my reach. But there is a bit of a flaw in my plan. You see, I can buy these little paper lovelies much faster than I can actually read them. And when I see something that I like (especially on sale, oh, may the book gods have mercy on my soul if I walk into Barnes and Noble and see the clearance section, or, even worse- a special deal on my kindle. One-click shopping was the most ingenious evil that I have ever encountered). But when I see something that I like on sale- I can’t pass it up. I am physically unable to ignore the deal. Because there is a whole new world within those pages, and who am I to deny myself- nay, my craft- the opportunity to open my soul to a new creation? So I buy it. And then it sits on my shelf. And eventually I will read it, but you don’t know if it will be in a day or three years from now.
This has been an ever growing problem. One I attempted to remedy once upon a time. My piles were growing too large, so I told myself that I would have to read ten books for every one that I bought. This lasted about a week. And then I went I into ‘book debt.’ Promising myself that I would read them eventually to make up for what I bought. Eventually I gave up completely. I even went so far as to write down my entire ‘to-read’ list. Ironically, that file corrupted and I can’t look at it anymore. Probably a good thing because I know that my input is still vastly larger than my output.
So you see, I have discovered my soul in the language of another tongue. It’s beautiful, it’s prophetic, and it’s also reminding me to start working through that list I have. I will be brutally honest- if an asteroid hit the Earth tomorrow and I were trapped in an underground bunker for the next three years, I would still have enough to keep me occupied without begging to be released onto the unlivable surface to trek my way to the nearest library.