Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A language made for proverbs

Turkish continues to delight, with its knack for compressing big meanings into short words. Such as:
Pr. 15:14 Akıllı yürek bilgi arar, Akılsızın ağzıysa ahmaklıkla beslenir.
Let's compare that to the King James Version of the same verse:
P4. 15:14 The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.
A key word here is akıl, which means "mental. reason. intelligence. discretion. wisdom. mind. memory. opinion. thought. advice. apprehension. brain. head. headpiece. intellect. piece of advice. psyche. senses. wit." (thank you,!) To this word we can add the suffix -lı, which means -- having all of the above. Or, the suffix -sız, which means, lacking all of the above. Or, you can combine the original noun with other nouns, to create other vivid descriptive terms:
  • akıl hastanesi -- mental hospital
  • akıl hastası -- lunatic
  • akıl defteri -- notebook
  • akıl hocası -- mentor, spin doctor. (Fans of the Nasrettin Hoca stories recognize that second noun!)
Yürek , of course, is heart, and bilgi is knowledge, understanding, skill. The verb aramak means to search for, and the verb beslenmek means "feed. to feed. to be fed. to be nourished. "

One final noun: ahmaklık means "foolishness. idiocy. stupidity. folly. imbecility. tomfoolery."

Now, this is a proverb very helpful for us wired, digital folks, people who work and play and live with computers and the internet. It takes effort, focus, and disciplined attention to pay attention to what is important. However, we find it all too easy to nibble our way astray, "feeding on" things that attract our attention, then lead it around, and around, and around, by the nose, as we skim the superficial surface to factoids, and watch our minutes and days evaporate, with nothing to show for them.

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