When Luca and I first met and taught each other our respective language, we delighted in words the other used. Italian and Spanish are both beautiful, and have many similarities, despite of which they are a lot more different than people assume.
Our favorite anecdotes are around “false pairs”, where the same word, spelled the same, means very different things in each language. (Try putting a word you know and use into a sentence where it means the opposite and examine your immediate reaction to it. If I told you “get in the car” actually meant “get out of the car” and let a day go by and yelled “get in the car!” what do you think you’d do?)
Learning each other’s language, and the fun inherent to it, continue to entertain us.
We have now been living in the United States for ten years, where we speak English in the office all day. Having three languages in common, we have adopted words from each one and peppered our sentences with a mix that we realize has become incomprehensible to anyone else (and often to each other.)
Most recently, we’ve discovered we are incapable of getting through a whole thought without some kind of abuse to all language. In place of the original creative flourish we displayed, we have reduced ourselves to sounding something like this: “Ah, we need to go to the watchamacalit to get the thingamajig” or “hon, did you, ummm, you know, whatever?”
The most alarming aspect is that about 90% of the time, even when the sentence is devoid of nouns (and sometimes verbs) we know what the other is talking about. The other 10% of the time, one of us stares while the other sits there locked in an internal struggle for recall. Or, we begin to holler, “Come on! Say it! Say it in ANY language!”
I fear we’ll soon be reduced to incoherent blabber.
We’ve hence resolved to lay down the law: a sentence begun in a language must be finished coherently in that language. No inserting words that don’t belong. No making up words (my favorite.) No long pauses where one secretly hopes the other will finish the sentence.
This is going to be…yeah. Phew. You know.