Richness of the Cajun Idiom Revisited: “To be lonesome” Wednesday, Nov 27 2013 

The Cajun French heritage lives in its native as well as its adopted languages.

The Cajun French heritage lives in its native as well as its adopted languages.

Occasionally, this blog takes on linguistic topics. (That should be expected, given the blogger’s training and orientation to this fascinating discipline.) This post recalls one of countless rich Cajun Vernacular English (CVE) usages that fascinated me so much when I started regularly hearing these curious expressions from the Cajun friends and family I fell in with by marriage.

Today’s lesson: to be lonesome for someone or something.

Like many CVE expressions, the idiom comes from a literal translation of the French equivalent, ironically meaning that the same expression in French bears literal meaning rather than idiomatic. In French, if you miss someone, you would say reflexively, “Je m’ennui de toi.” (I lonesome myself for you.) Translated into Englsih, variations of the expression come out like this:

A loved one might greet you after a period of absence, “Mais, chere, I’ve been lonesome for you.”
Or invite you to come over for a visit: “Mais,chere, come see us. We’re lonesome!”
Or express sadness over someone’s passing: “Daddy died last year. Mais, we’re lonesome for him, yeah.”

In English, of course, we use the verb miss to express the same meaning.

I miss you. Do you miss me?

This verb miss is the same verb as we use to say “Swing and miss” as at a baseball or “miss the bus” as arriving too late at the bus stop. Miss is clear enough, but how much richer is “I’m lonesome for you. Are you lonesome for me?” This is one of the rare instances where I prefer the passive voice to active voice.

Why? Because the Cajun idiom employs an evocative word. Lonesome is, after all, an emotion or a state of mind. It’s a word that evokes pathos. Miss is a nondescript, mundane verb that evokes nothing. To make it emotional, we have to add luggage to the sentence, like “I miss you so much that my heart aches” or “I miss you more than I could ever describe.” Ugh. Wordy, but still not very evocative.

The conclusion after the comparison of the Cajun to the English: If fewer words well-chosen are more effective than more words not-so-well chosen, we should unquestionably prefer the Cajun!

Wordplay: “Anal Retention” Saturday, Nov 23 2013 

Peers of my generation who attended college or graduate school in the 60’s and 70’s were subjected to strains of Freudian analysis in every academic discipline, no matter that Freudian analysis was the product of social science. In literary criticism, we had Freudian analysis or interpretation of stories and poems. In history, scholars bantered about Freudian theories to explain why certain historical figures did the things they did. When we misspoke accidentally, we were guilty of a Freudian slip.

Sigmund Freud, to whom I am indebted for this post's creative fodder.

Sigmund Freud, to whom I am indebted for this post’s creative fodder.

My favorite Freudian term, though was anal retentive. The term came to mind a few days ago in a high-fallutin’ meeting of academicians when one highly educated gentleman (Ph.D., of my generation) jokingly confessed that he was anal retentive in the manner about which he did his work. Everyone laughed, but I thought: Considering exactly what that term literally suggests, why would anybody confess? Isn’t to proclaim oneself anal retentive suggestive of saying remarks such as…

“Hey, dude, I’m not about to cut loose of my feces.”
“My anal sphincter is pinched so tight it hurts.”
“I’ve got this freaky hang-up: I enjoy the feeling of being constipated.”

No, I don’t think I want to make jokes about being anal retentive.

Something else: If anal retentive is one end of the continuum of whatever set of personality traits defined by the term, what is the opposite end of that same continuum? Anal effusive? Hmmmmm, that’s scary.

And if anal retention is the noun form and anal retentive the adjectival form, what are the other grammatical variations?

the verbal form: anal retaining
the adverbial form: anally retentive or anal retentively
the infinitive: to anally retain
the past participial: anally retained
the superlative: most anally retained
the present participial: anally retaining

Run free in the streets! Saturday, Nov 16 2013 

Streets for running wind far and free.

Streets for running wind far and free.

A few weeks ago, the former doctors’ clinic at the end of the street that used to be a health club re-opened as a health club again. I noticed right away that fitness runners were regularly passing by the front of our house.

I got to wondering: Why would somebody shell out $30 or $40 or $50 or whatever a month, drive to the health club for a workout, and then run on the streets in the health club’s neighborhood? I run these same streets all the time for nothing.

I’m sure those patrons are also using machines and equipment in the health club, but I come back again to a personal contention that fitness doesn’t need to cost much. Just getting out and moving around works wonders: the streets are free, the air is fresh, and the enlivening sensory experience of a winding course through the streets of town leaves the sense-numbing sights, sounds, and smells of a treadmill in a gym far behind in the race for leisure that’s aesthetic as well as healthy.

And, of course, my $$$$ stay in my pocket.

To outrun the common cold? I zinc so. Saturday, Nov 9 2013 

Yesterday's workout summary that helped put this nasty cold on the run.

Yesterday’s workout summary that helped put this nasty cold on the run.

I remember the advice doctors gave about treating the common cold when I was much younger: Drink fluids, get plenty of rest, take meds to relieve the symptoms, and basically let the virus run its course in 7-10 days. Ugh. No way.

Older and more experienced in dealing with colds now, my advice is simplified: drink fluids, take meds sparingly because they mostly raise your blood pressure and create side effects as unpleasant as the cold’s symptoms, and run my course.

Running when I have a cold or even bronchitis not only alleviates the stuffy symptoms by opening up the pores and blood vessels to move snot and congestion along, but the cardio-activity also seems to bump up the endorphins and adrenalin that overwhelms that cruddy feeling that accompanies the cold. The effort produces a much superior result to the vasal constrictive meds’ foggy side effects. I always feel better after a run than before, and certainly better than I feel after popping a brain-bending antihistamine.

I started taking zinc a few years ago when I first start feeling cold symptoms, too. Experience has convinced me that zinc’s claims are true: the supplement helps lessen the severity and shortens the duration of the worst cold symptoms.

I’m recovering this weekend from a cold bout this past week, and I’m convinced that this strategy of minimizing the meds, taking zinc, and “running through” the symptoms has helped me get past the worst of it.

Yes, I believe you can put a cold on the run–I definitely zinc so!