January 27, 2012
I hold little more sacred than words. They are the blood of my life; yet I did not fall in love with them because “they mean something.” It is their vitality which seduced me. The way “correr” and “joy” use the tongue as a ski jump. It is their history and formation of syllables. How the word “aphrodisiac” wouldn’t be here if not for that goddess born of sea-foam. My favorite word, desplomarse, is Spanish for my least favorite meaning, “to collapse.” But taken literally, much of the word’s art will be lost; the history condensed to four syllables.

Desplomarse was born from Latin explorers who first named lead “plumbum” and in its journey towards meaning, ventured into the Mediterranean. Sailors, amidst the spraying surf, would tie lead to a line and let it plummet straight through the water; the antiquated manner for measuring depth. Decades passed and over in the land of the English, the word “plumb” became a technical term for engineers to describe a straight line. Then these fermenting syllables returned to Europe, to Spain, and with the negative prefix, “des,” and the reflexive suffix “se,” the word meaning to “un-straighten oneself,” reached adulthood.

Now the point of this mini-etymology lesson? Desplomarse only exists because of the English and Latin languages. It serves as a blatant testimony of how languages are not separate entities. Although I love the word’s sound and its history, most of all, I love how it suggests maybe the Tower of Babble never existed. Maybe a monolingual tongue is all there is - just with a more expansive vocabulary.

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