Une femme ayant sa raison,
Un chat passant parmi les livres,
Des amis en toute saison
Sans lesquels je ne peux pas vivre.
If you were to ask me which fictional character I most identified with, of course I’d say Lizzy Bennett or Cathy Earnshaw. But there’s another, rather less appealing one: the 14 c. hunchback Italian monk Salvatore from Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, who speaks no one language but a mixture of at least half a dozen, including Latin, vulgate Italian, French, Spanish, English, German. Here’s a sampling of his speech:
penitenziagite! watch out for the draco who cometh in futurum to gnaw your anima! death is super nos! pray the santo pater come to liberar nos a malo and all our sin! ha ha, you like this negromanzia de domini nostri jesu christi! et anco jois m’es dols e plazer m’es dolors…cave el diabolo!
That. Is. What. Speech. Sounds. Like. In. My. Head. And it’s alienating. And lonely, unless you are around people who are like you. Which is why in some ways it’s fitting that this character would be a hunchback, and burned as a heretic (spoilers fair game; if you’d wanted to read an Eco novel you’d have read it already.)
I only know 4 languages. And I do mean “only”–Americans think 4 is a great deal, but I know loads of people who speak a lot more languages than 4. But I often can’t think of the word for something in one language and I get very frustrated when the correct word, but in the wrong language, wants to trip off my tongue. I honestly feel like some kind of feral child sometimes. Like those nightmares some people have – and I am one of them – about wanting to say something but finding you are mute. Or trying to text someone and finding it keeps texting the wrong words.
Those consonants at the end the phrase “coup de grace” are not silent. So if you pronounce it coup de “graaahhh,” I will laugh. Not to be mean, but because phonetically speaking, you have just said “a blow of fat.” (coup de gras, as it were, which I hope is not a real thing)
Read it on Quartz here.