Rhyme, Idioms, and Meter: Language Mash-up


Una mujer stands, there,

envuelta, en sombra,

maldad, obscuridad.

And she thinks that

it would be nice, for once,

if she could leave behind that cloak

that cloaks her,

clings to her,

and billows and makes her more than what she wants

to be, than she is.

Maldita, they call her.

Maldida mentida, she would think,

“Lie-woman”, “Woman of Lies”,

but more of one who has been lied to.

Hombre, mal hombre, 

who pinned ese envuelta


his fault is this madness,

this mangling of appearance so that she seems

to look like the specter of evil

that he had seen her as. Maldita. 

No, maldito.

It’s him.

Spanish translations:

Una mujer: Woman.

envuelta, en sombra: Wrapped, in shadow.

maldad, obscuridad: Evilness, obscurity.

Maldita: Accursed

Mentida: Lie.

Hombre, mal hombre: man, evil man.

Alrededorla: around her.

maldito: Accursed.

Now, this is something pretty interesting. Rather than chose one language or the other, I’ve mashed them together for pure effect of rhyme and meter. For the sake of those who don’t speak Spanish as their second language, I translated the Spanish words so that you understand what I’m talking about. “Typical,” you’d say, “Woman blaming a man.” That’s not the point, really. Allow me to elaborate.

In any language, there’s often more than one way to talk about things. There are hundreds of idioms, which are completely untranslatable into any other language. To see what I mean, run over to the Translation Telephone. The game telephone, if you don’t remember, is all about what you hear. One person whispers a phrase to the person next to him or her, who makes as much sense of the phrase as they can and turns to the next person in line. Assumptions are made and the sentence goes all around the circle to the original person, who announces what they’ve just heard, comparing it to the original sentence. Follow the link, and the engine does a similar thing; it translates a phrase into twenty random languages, word for word, and then back into the original language. Just for the sake of exemplar, I’ll use “I don’t trust him farther than I can throw him.” Fun idiom, isn’t it? Since it is very hard to throw a person, they don’t go very far, usually only a few inches. Therefore, you only trust a certain person a few inches.

That’s the explanation that you’d have to give to an exchange student.

But what I got: I do not think I’m on my game.

This is the point where you insert an ellipsis. Yes, language is the whole reason why going the whole nine yards literally doesn’t translate. At all. Idioms are some of the hardest things to learn in a language because, frankly, they don’t make much sense. It’s the reason why orange does have a rhyming word–in another language. (Hee-hee, play on words there) Orange, in Spanish, for example, is naranja, which rhymes with enoja, esperanza, etc. (Therefore, something does rhyme with orange, as long as you don’t specify that it has to be in the English language. You can always reply to such a statement with “Yes, it does, word in another language.

To rhyme in a poem, do you really have to use only one language? It’s about picking a word that fits, so why can’t you use a word from another language? The answer is, a lot of people (In the US, anyway) can’t speak more than one language. Therefore, if you want your readers to understand you without the use of Google translate, you’d better use the vernacular. What use are books if they’re all published in Latin? (Not to say that Spanish is a dead language, or that few people speak it) If you don’t care, or if you don’t mind adding a word key to help you readers get what’s going on, though…the opportunities are endless.

 Ah, languages, what a great way to celebrate my third year on the blogosphere. It’s one of the subjects that I talk about most, since poetry is all about language. Infinite conversation topics about it can be devised, in thousands of languages.



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