The DNA languages of cultures.

     After 266 days in Scotland, 5 days in Ireland, 1 in Denmark, 43 in Poland, 1 in Belgium, and finally 21 so far in the Netherlands, I could say the clouds in my mind have scattered, I am able to accommodate to the ‘DNA of the culture’ as I like to call it, which strikes me most when it comes to the language.

     There is some sort of specific ‘feel’ in each and every place. Once you start moving with your life and being open-minded, you can feel the place in much more profound way.

When I visited Dublin for 5 mentioned days, I immediately felt that different ‘feel’ rather than in Scotland, but still a familiar one. Even though Ireland has euros as their currency, Ireland is not part of the UK. Ireland is Europe, and bears a completely different feel than England. Slightly more similar to Scotland. Ireland has their own pride in Guinness and Jameson whisky, just like Scotland swims in their whisky. There are Irish pubs with irish fonts on their signboards and Gaelic language seen even on the street signs.


Still, Gaelic and Brittonic are languages of Celts, that first infiltrated Britain around 500 BC. In the Gaelic group we’ve got both Irish and Scottish, which might explain why Ireland felt just like good ol’ Scotland after all.

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And if you look at the geographic spread of Celtic language, you can see how England remains untouched. England, and the English language came from Germanic tribe of Anglo-Saxons, who arrived on the British Isles at least 600 years after Celts had been already there.
English did not even originate from the British Isles, since those who brought it, Anglo-Saxons, came from continental Europe, pushing Celts outwards North and West.
And yet so many people name the whole of British Isles as “England” just because they all speak English, which gets me on my nerves.

It was inevitable for me to be affected by Dutch language in the Netherlands as well. Suddenly it struck me how my thinking and writing would be faster and better, if it was only in Dutch. And I do not mean sole communication with other people, rather the cognition of all around you. Knowing Dutch, especially etymologically, would allow me to apprehend so many more things. Here is a place for operations in Dutch, not English. Smoking in here in not that smooth like the english word itself is, the smoke from my cigarette did not swirled gracefully from it as usual. “Roken” is Dutch for “smoking”. Beginning with that characteristic Dutch hoarse rattle, cracking and wheezing the sound of letter “r”. Roken in here is harsh. And yes, after trying cigarettes in here I was coughing indeed. Hoarse, rough, hard roken. Smooth, soothing, comfortable smoking.

A nightingale is mysterious and unknown, like the night it bears in its name. They also sing in the evening, hence the name. Ending with ‘gale‘ which means strong wind, suggesting that the bird can withstand it. Even more, word ‘gale’ comes from the Old Norse word ‘galinn’, which means “mad”, “frantic” or “bewitched”. Whereas Old Norse is the language of the Vikings. Earliest inscriptions from Scandinavia were written in runes on stones, swords and artefacts. A nightingale seems mighty, strong, a secret rune of the night. Semantically belonging more to Celts than to Anglo-Saxons, now that we speak about it.

“(…) the peculiarities of mind and temper which can be still observed in the Irish or the Welsh on the one hand and the English on the other: the wild incalculable poetic Celt, full of vague and misty imaginations, and the Saxon, solid and practical when not under the influence of beer.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien’s “English and Welsh”, the inauguration speech for the O’Donnel lectures.
Whereas in Polish a nightingale is “słowik“, close to “słowo” which means a “word“. Quite a talkative bird then it is, suggesting its singing is words. Morever, suffix “ik” in Polish is used to create a pet name of a rather patronizing connotation. English nightingale is mighty and mysterious singer of the night, whereas Polish słowik is a small, annoying jabbering gibberish blabber.


“When the surroundings speaks only in an unknown language, one begins to listen to it alongside with the whole environment. And if we linger long enough, the time existing in this environment will master the language for us. That was in my case, the mind did not know at all how did it happen. I think people don’t appreciate the listening and hearing words. And the listening prepares itself to speak up. One day my mouth started speaking. Romanian was then just like my mother tongue. Its Romanian words could not believe when I was involuntary comparing them with my German words.”

“Banal” is not that banal.

     I tend to use this word quite a lot, and here is why I love it so much.
     First of all, and paradoxically, the word itself is not so obvious as its meaning:
banal calls a synonym “obvious” first for Polish, but “common” first for Romanians. At least the one that I got to chat about it with. And on the other hand, “trivial” calls for word “ordinary” first for Polish, and “ordinary” for Romanian as well.
     So Romanian people get it, saying “banal“. Italian people say “banale“, Polish people saying “banalny“, Dutch say “banaal“, Germans say “banal” as well.
All of those people, speaking Latin-founded languages get the exact meaning of this word, given that they got to know it by experience. Even the way this word sounds when you say it. Requires minimum movement of the mouth, as if even saying it would bore you just as much as whatever you are describing with it.
     Semantic meaning of this word, i.e. the array of a word’s synonyms and meanings, which I like to extend to metaphors, would be utterly flat. Plain, predictable, obvious, not surprising by any fluctuation or change of pace.
     The letters used in that word seem round and mild, sort of melting in your mouth when you say it. This word crawls lazily out of your mouth. It is nothing like any sharp, specific word, let’s say, ‘knife‘. Saying knife is fast, dynamic, ending with that characteristic whiz on letter ‘f’ which reminds you of the sound that an actual knife makes when swung fast in air.
     Even the way we write ‘knife‘, or ‘knives‘ looks much more edged than ‘banal‘. Letters kiv are outright and critical. If you write them vigorously, they might even tear paper underneath. With banal, you are able to effortlessly swirl your pen alongside the letters, not even elevating your hand.
     It’s interesting to think how differently must those words sound in Arabic, or Chinese. Do they intonate their words in a similar way as well? Is word ‘boring’ boring as well, in a way you can prolong syllable ‘o’ or say the entire word with not even separating your teeth?
That is why I like ‘banal ‘ as an example, to wonder whether ‘latin-dynamic’ words are dynamic in other languages as well.