Lingua Franca

Lingua Franca

Ella deCastro Baron


 “Also known as a bridge, common, trade, auxiliary or link language.  A language or dialect usedto make communication possible between people who do not share a native tongue.”  

I am oceans language.  “Pasalubong” is the Tagalog word for, “gifts the traveler brings back to welcoming loved ones.”

I am weather language. Petrichor, the smell of land after the rain.  Greek,petros, meaning "stone", and ichor, "the fluid that flows in the veins of gods.” What is the name for the smell of island hopping, the moment when bare feet step out of saline onto sand?

             Other weather language—as in whether here or there—that hold the tension of comedy and tragedy in their alphabet.

A ‘williwaw’ is a violent squall. In diaspora, we are windswept by williwaws.  It’s the nature of water, air, and moon.  Why do we act surprised?  Why do we scramble for life jackets and compasses every time?   

A ‘haboob’, an intense sandstorm. For those who don’t see in shades of brown, it’s akin to saying “whiteout conditions.”  I am stuck in a haboob, hoping to scoop handfuls of words, press them down to make sandpaper, rough stories that grind, un-level our shellacked surfaces, dig down to the wisdom of fossils.

When the air is humid, it is “swullocking.”  As a dry-skinned, dry-mouthed creature, I prefer swullocking weather.  The more water crystals around me, the more dazzling, the more held I am.

I am naming language. Possible names for Child, recorded 3 days before her birth on the first day of summer. Hebrew names:  Raviv, rain. Ma’ayan, fountain spring. Netania, gift of God. Yuval, stream.  See the language of this?  Water, water, divine, water.  Tagalog names:  MahalagA, worthy. Dalisay, pure. Ca’ylao, fellow light bearer. Imee, the entire battle. Translation: as we see our true reflection, we win back what is lost.

When my kumu felt it was time, she invoked the Polynesian school, our halau, to call me by my Hawaiian name. “Halana malie” meaning, “calm tranquility” meaning “to stay at ‘excessive rest’ in one’s core despite outward chaos.“ Bridge, prophecy, hope.

I am “common” language. If you know a “boondock” is rural wilderness, you are also speaking Tagalog for “mountain.”  Both suggest where the unsophisticated live, but let’s say it with more urgency, as if we are running away from it—the bunDOK—down back to the coastline where rumor has it, we might now be okay to be seen. 

I am Spirit language. “Rhema,” a divine utterance.  “Salawikain,” proverb.

Ruach Ha Kodesh, the divine creative force, quality and influence, the holy wind, a feminine pronoun.

            I am learning language.   I’m teaching myself the oldest words in the English dictionary: Love…I…We…Black…Mother…Give…woman/man…Fire…

…Ashes…Hand…Hear…Spit…One, two, three…Flow…Old…This…Pull…Worm.  

This is a language prayer. A recovery prayer. A Naming It prayer.  

Pasalubong, williwaw, swullocking, Raviv, Ca’ylao, Mahalaga, Halana malie, boondock, Rhema, salawikain, Ruach Ha Kodesh. 

Mix them in the rain. Smell the petrichor