Wednesday, August 12, 2009

my god, it feels good to write in english

One of the side affects of taking intensive beginning Russian is over using the word "demoralizing". Which is a word, to be honest, that I don't think I'd ever used with any real sentiment before. But now I find myself with a sort of violent blob sensation on my eyelids-- like something is coming at my face and then retreating--and a feeling in my chest that alternates between stolid resignation and humiliation.

These signs are supposed to let a person know that he/she should probably abandon the effort. How much of a beating should a person take?

Three hour class.

Homework all day.

Homework comes back dripping with red ink next day.

Repeat and then add terrifying exams that come back lacerated with a B minus.

There is some comfort in knowing that I am doing all these things with stringent compunction: getting up in the morning, going to class, homework etc. But there is some element of really getting into the material that I just can't manage when I have such a schedule. The schedule is not in my nature (a nature that is being severely repressed) and so it is difficult to put myself into such a strange and often unpleasant endeavor.

Of course, the language itself-- as a pure entity apart from the horribleness of the classroom/pedagogy-- is surprisingly delightful. I never thought I would feel any real connection to it via the artificial lists of verbs and their conjugations or scary vocabulary lists but some words are beginning to feel elemental. Certain words really evoke the sort of impulse that goes along with their english equivalents-- but in a different way, in a a Russian way.

Also, apparently the word for "crucifixion" is similar to "Friday" in Russian. Fascinating, huh? I agree with my professor that there is some etymological mystery to be solved in this coincidence. Also, "crucifixion" is spelled with an "x" in English-- very old world/British.

But боже мой! (I swear learning bridge will be the last step to my grandmafication) It feels marvelous to have a large vocabulary in at least one language. I had almost forgotten what it felt like to be able to write without scruples. Hell, I can use dashes and semicolons like it is my last day on earth. (Though it turns out that Russians like the long dash-- which I am readily embracing.)

It occurred to me, at the end of writing this (ie. right now), that I should look up "demoralizing" to see if it really means what I think it means. I have been known to be wrong before. corrupt the morals of
2 a : to weaken the morale of : discourage, dispirit b : to upset or destroy the normal functioning of c : to throw into disorder

Nope, seems pretty spot on. And since, apparently, all of my ill-founded wishes are coming true this summer (learn Russian? really? what a great idea!) I find this quote from a book on Voltaire via the OED particularly apt:

1871 MORLEY Voltaire (1886) 133
Miracles..have necessarily a very demoralising effect.