Saturday 11 December 2021

My Three Brains

Yesterday rolled out green and sunny until I met a slightly rocky patch, which activated my anxiety about taxation, and then then it proceeded merrily until I fell into a great pit of fear and rage, into which we will not go now but is not unrelated to COVID-19. 

After that I was not sure I wanted to take on the exigencies of my weekly Italian class, but my better nature recalled that one surefire way to cheer me up on a bad (or baddish) day is to go to my Italian class, even if that means just pushing a few keys on my computer and conversing on ZOOM for an hour. 

And as usual, it worked, this time in particular because I had prepared a new chapter of my Italian-language saga about my 35 years of off-and-on Italian studies. It revealed much fruit for correction, many discoveries of unknown unknowns. Did you know that Nutella sandwiched should be rendered "i tramazzini ALLA Nutella?" Neither did I. 

The interesting thing about shifting into Italian gear is that it is like moving into an entirely different brain.  It is a younger, happier brain, more prone to bursts of laughter, endlessly curious and unembarrassed. I used to think that is because Italian is a background language of my childhood or because it is the language of beautiful, sunny holidays in Italia. Now I wonder if it because the neurons are newer or because I forged them in happier hours. 

After I write this, I will have a Polish lesson over Skype. It will also be mainly Polish conversation, so I will have to shift gears again--maybe by scanning the Polish sentences I worked on over the week. It is a hardworking language, most words learned by memorisation, not inference. My developing Polish brain is closer to my Italian brain than to my English brain, which is no doubt why Italian creeps in--that said, I currently exclaim Santo cielo! (good heavens) upon every provocation, including being confused by the eye-testing machinery at Specsavers. 

I asked my Polish tutor for a Polish equivalent to Santo Ccielo, something appropriate for a woman my age, and he proposed "O rany Boskie," which is literally the mediaeval Swounds! or "God's wounds," at which my Anglo-Saxon/Celtic conscience balks. I'm not saying that. Fortunately, my Polish exchange partner suggested "O rety," which doesn't seem to have a literal meaning, and also cholera and, if sorely tried, kurczaka (chicken) or even kurczaka pieczona (roasted chicken). This, however, is very close to the worst Polish swear of all, so I think I will try to avoid it.   

Meanwhile, I don't really know my Polish brain enough to tell you what it is like, except hardworking, problem-solving, and humble. Polish conversation comes at it at great speed, and it tries to assemble it into meaning and come up with an appropriate rejoinder, which is usually Tak (Yes) but should be No (Yes...) or No tak (well, yes).

Yesterday I used my original brain to write my third anti-consumerism piece for work, and here it is. So far there are no comments, but a colleague did reach out to say he totally agreed. Although the message is sound, I feel slightly uneasy because I did get a literal pile of presents every year, and there is a growing pile of gifts in the dining-room closet for B.A. and me. However, even two gifts, one on top of the other, can be considered a pile, I guess. Meanwhile, I am reasonably sure my thrifty parents never went into consumer debt. 

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