The Words We Use
By Melody Heath
coffee shop was full of familiar smells and sounds even though it was
in the complex city of Hong KongVirginia. The rich smell of coffee beans and scones and
the ringing of glasses mixed with the chatter of people.
I settled down at one of the remaining
computers in between my friend Jake and another customer.
Relieved at finding a computer with a decent
internet connection, I immediately logged on unaware that my every word
being studied by the customer on my left. I’ll
refer to her in this essay as Jo.
was having difficulty writing an email to her boyfriend.
She’s from Venice, Italy
originally and her
boyfriend is from America,
but they both live in Hong Kong now. Jo explains to me that she sometimes feels
like he misinterprets what she is trying to say to him which is
since English isn’t her first language. Bluntly,
Jo asks, “How would I say, ‘I love you,’ to him? And
what are some cute names that I could
call him?” Her questions surprised a
little bit. How do we say I love you to
our loved ones back in the states? What
nicknames do we give each other? I could
tell she was looking for more of a response than, “I love you actually
really well.” So I thought about it for
a minute and still couldn’t come up with any other phrases that say I
besides the one.
I told her that she could just say that she misses him because he is
out of town. If you miss some one then by
like or love that person. Jo explained
to me that she doesn’t normally use that phrase because to her it means
you missed some one in passing at a restaurant or in a mall. This made me laugh and I told Jo it could
mean that also, depending on what context you use it in.
an hour of sitting there teaching Jo American slang, it was time for
Jake and I
to move on to more shopping. She thanked
me over and over again for the time I spent talking to her, but I think
more out of it than she did. She made me
think about how individual and personal nicknames and phrases of love
exchanged between two people, whether they are spouses or siblings. We all have our own ways of expressing
that may not be the same or work the same for another couple. And we
say and do these things subconsciously, she simply needs to find what
between her and her boyfriend.
“Participating in the Global,” Alan Smart explains that people in their
towns are still exposed to or influenced by the larger civilization
in. This woman that I met has a hard
time understanding her boyfriend and vice versa because they grew up on
sides of the globe. Jo’s English was
influenced by the fact that it was not her first language.
So who she learned it from and where she
learned it would affect how she uses it.