These are a Few of My Favorite Words

As a writer and amateur linguist, I love words. People often ask me what my favorite word is, and so I thought I’d answer that question by providing a short list. Of course I couldn’t pick just one word, right? So, in no particular order:

Laulu – this word means “song” in Finnish.

Though I’m not a singer, I love music and song; and to me, this word itself sounds like a song. It’s the perfect onomatopoeia word. Approximate pronunciation: lahw-loo. (I say approximate, because remember I’m a self-proclaimed amatuer linguist, not a translator).

Tusarnituq – this in an Inuktitut word meaning “beautiful sound.”

Not really onomatopoeia this time, but pretty close; it’s a beautiful word (pronounced just like it’s spelled, as far as I know) and the meaning is what I especially like. English, rich in adjectives as it is, doesn’t actually have an individual word for something as specific as a beautiful sound.

Ljósmóðir – the Icelandic word for “mid-wife.”

Literally translated, it means “light-mother.” Approximate pronunciation: lyohs-mothr (Icelanders, please – gently! – correct my poor phonetic spelling, if you’d like). Anyway, I first encountered this word on this blog; Icelanders frequently vote this as the most beautiful word in their language, and I agree. Not only does it sound beautiful to the ear, but the definition embodies the beauty of bringing new light and life into the world.

Wonder – yes, finally time to put an English word on this list.

“Wonder” is all about awe, discovery, amazement, and deep thoughts. I try to live my life with a sense of wonder – appreciating the beauty and awe of the world, and always curious and exploring. And, since several other words on my list are about music and sound, here’s a beautiful song all about the wonder of life and hope.

What are some of your favorite words? Please share!

Advertisements

Music Review: “Dreaming Of Home,” Susan Aglukark

Canadian singer/songwriter Susan Aglukark has long been one of my favorite music artists. She is Inuit – the aboriginal people who live in the arctic regions of northern Canada – and her music bridges all cultural gaps. Her latest album Dreaming of Home is no different. The spirit of Christmas and a love for family and home are universal, and this collection of holiday songs shows just that.

Dreaming of Home features several familiar Christmas favorites, like “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song),” and “Huron Carol.” Other songs, like “Caledonia” and the titular song “I’m Dreaming of Home,” are simple songs of the love and warmth of home.

If you’ve heard Susan’s first Christmas album from a number of years ago, you’ll recognize “Old Toy Trains” and the Inuktitut version of “Silent Night.” These are new versions, though, for this album. As much as I love her original renditions of these songs, I was excited to hear them again with a different sound.

As she usually does, Susan sings in both English and her native language of Inuktitut on this album. “Huron Carol” and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” are in Inuktitut, while “Old Toy Trains,” “Silent Night,” and “Do You Hear What I Hear” are sung in a mix of both languages.

My regular readers probably know how much I enjoy listening to music in other languages, but I think this is especially meaningful at Christmas. Hearing Christmas songs in different tongues, whether they’re familiar tunes or not, to me exemplifies the meaning of Christmas – it’s a gift for everyone of every culture, all over the world.

A gentle folk-rock sound and Susan’s clear voice make this album a delightful Christmas treat. I know that I’ll be adding these songs to my annual Christmas playlist for many years to come.

Merry Christmas!

Susan Aglukark’s website

“Do You Hear What I Hear”

Borrowed Words

Every language is influenced by other languages. And every language winds up adopting foreign words over time, sometimes adapting them to unique uses in the new language, and sometimes keeping the form and definition the same.

For this blog entry, I thought I’d highlight a few common words that are used in modern English that actually have their origin in another language far removed. Such words are usually called “borrowed words,” which personally I find to be a strange term. The language and its speakers don’t temporarily borrow a foreign word with the intention of giving it back someday. “Adopted words” would be more accurate, in my opinion; but for now I’ll go with the more well-known linguistic term.

Buffet—a self-serve spread of food, often found in restaurants such as an all-you-can-eat cheap Chinese buffet. This word is French, and it originally referred to the sideboard (or side table) where food was laid out to be served to seated diners at the dining table.

Kayak—a narrow one- or two-person boat steered with a two-ended paddle. It’s an Inuktitut word (often spelled “qajaq” in that language). The Inuit and Eskimos of the Arctic used this boat for centuries for hunting and travel before we adopted it for recreational use.

Piano—a musical instrument constructed of keys which use hammers to strike strings to produce the sound. It’s part of a longer word pianoforte, which is Italian for “soft-loud.” It meant that this musical instrument, unlike many others of centuries ago, could be played both softly and loudly.

Sauna—a hot room, either steamy or dry, used for relaxation, rejuvenation, and all manners of sweating. We get the sweat-room concept, and the word, from Finnish. The Finns love their saunas.

Bazaar—a large shopping venue, with many stores or booths selling a variety of merchandise. Bazaar is a Persian word, and us English speakers liked it so much we now use the word for everything from art shows to farmers’ markets to catalogs.

Geyser—a hot spring that erupts from beneath the ground with explosive force, often at regular intervals. Iceland is a land where many geysers can be found, and that’s where the word comes from. “Geysir” in Icelandic is both the general term for this natural phenomenon, and the name of one of the island’s largest geysers.

So there you have it—who knew that English uses so many words that aren’t English? And I could list many others. Anybody else have other suggestions to add to the “borrowed words” list? How about some words “borrowed” into other languages besides English?