Day 5: My Tongue

My Tongue

مجھے دھجا جب میری انکھیں بند

گرمی کے تجنا کہ برنز

اگھاڑا نرم چمرخ پر ہے

میرے سینے خطرناک ہو, میرے نریٹا خشک

نکولس برنز اور میرے جسم سے غذائی اجناس کے ٹویان ریت ہے کہ ترپنا میں

سرور کو


زمین نہیں کر سکتے ہیں. اٹنا ازاد خیال

I fly when my eyes are closed

To the hot desert that scorches

Soft skin bare upon it.

My lips become parched, my throat rasping

And my skin burns from those tiny grains of sand that whip up

To suffocate.


No land can contain the free mind.

Today I arrived at WordPress and was met by a barrage of links and blogs about grammar and language so I decided to continue the theme.  Incidentally, I have always been useless at grammar and far too ‘wordy’ for my own good.

I have poorly translated (when I say “I” I mean Babylon translate) this short poem of sorts into Urdu because I was talking yesterday to a friend of mine about linguistic styles and cartography and how both of these tools (in regards to creative writing) are close relations to our own identity and culture.

A single word, such as “love”, spoken in ten different languages, will, broadly have a similar meaning. The form of the word however, and what is implied through the manipulation of the speaker’s mouth (the letters which are accented through placement of the tongue, teeth and lips) tells us not only what the speaker stresses in saying the word but also, perhaps, what their ethnicity or prominent culture(s) have transcribed the word to mean.  Whether we like it or not, our cultural heritage, both good and bad, has curved our language; created words; forgotten others and stamped its authority over our idiom and dialect.  Rekindling my former example, the word “love”, it is probably most well-known in French (“amour”) but why?  The length of its history would naturally be the most obvious, but also its usage in relation to building over hundreds of years through stories, books, poetry, song and latterly media, a cultural stereotype;  the passionate French lover.  The stress on “ou” in amour, the forward motion of the lips created through the phonological stress (as with many French words) and even perhaps a little lilt or “r” rolling at the end of the word all emphasise the French heritage of the word “love”.

Of course, phonology, and semantics (meaning derived from the words we speak), are often idiosyncratic and pragmatic (how meaning is inferred from contextual use).  Linguistics is not by any means an exact science, (for example the feelings, images and experiences I attach to the word “love” are likely to be very different to those you think of when I say it) however language relies upon a single generalised meaning or ‘signature’ if you like to exist (a semiotic).  For each word I speak or write there is (ideally) a single notion that I wish to imply and you agree to receive.  Whilst we both may have built different visual and emotional mental ‘collages’ from saying/hearing the word “love” there is still a generic ‘blueprint’ meaning that we both believe connects us (conceptual meaning).

This conceptual ‘blueprint’ of a word is manipulated and adapted over time through changes in usage (idiom), through certain important texts or real-world references that are intrinsically linked to a culture’s identity (such as the Bible, WWII, the landing on the moon and Gone With The Wind) but probably the most important and extensive changes to denotation occur through shifts in the dominant ideology of a culture. These being political, spiritual/religious changes or knowledge-based advances that are widely acknowledged and accepted by the general population.  One might say that, here in the UK, scientific study of our brain and heart, the separation of church and State, equal rights for men and women, the 70’s freedom movement, gay rights and even technology (Twitter, Facebook and blogging) have all impacted upon our British ‘blueprint’ meaning of the word “love”.

Cartography, use of grammar, spelling, syntax etc. are all tools that are taught in order for us to (hopefully) be more clearly understood within the boundaries of our own ethnicity/ tongue but they are also signs that are taught, copied, and repeated in order to create a generic language and help maintain an identifiable linguistic ‘blueprint’.  Some might argue these set rules confine our ability to express our thoughts and desires as individuals.  We, for example, who utilise the English (UK) language,  are heavily reliant upon words and linguistic shape that is, compared to other languages, slow-moving and restrictive.  Our educational system teaches us probably from 80% of the same texts we were using 50 years ago (at least!).  Though words are continually added to the dictionary, it is a book littered with meanings of words that many would describe as outdated and evolved yet still we teach the original meanings, why?  We cling to traditional spellings of words that are hundreds of years old even though they are probably said or used very differently today.  We punish each other for using abbreviations, slang, and shortening of sentences that are commonplace in our spoken language but which, when written, are exchanged for their original form.  Why? Is there an advantage to restricting the mass population to utilising certain texts, words and semiotics beyond simply making it easier to be understood?  And if there is, are there those ultimately with the power to change words, meanings and accepted symbolism and furthermore are they deliberately restricting change to maintain order, or are we all simply happy to be ‘going with the flow’? Image

One comment

  1. Wow, incredible blog! How long have you ever been blogging for? you make running a blog look easy. The whole look of your website is great, as well as the content!


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