The poet David Kirby, in his little book Writing Poems once said something like “try to go through life being dumb. When you’re smart everything makes sense but when you’re dumb you have to think through things you see in fresh ways and sometimes you get an idea for poems that way.” He was suggesting that we look at the world we are so used to seeing in fresh ways, that we always look at the world with what Buddhists call a “beginner’s mind.” Well, I’m blessed here in Albania as someone who knows very little Albanian language because everything with Albanian words on it is fresh and new to me, makes me feel like a beginner and . . . often makes me feel quite dumb. But sometimes I revel in my dullness before resorting to the dictionary to straighten things out. Two words so far are my case in point because they look, on the surface, like words–sorta–in English.
One ubiquitous word, from TV to shop windows to billboards is njoftime. The problem with this word is that it’s not sufficiently different that it would mean absolutely no sense to me as I look at it. C’kemi, for example (informal hello) doesn’t look like anything. There are no English words hidden in there. Njoftime, however, has three English words in the quick succession: NJ, of and time. So we have the great state of New Jersey’s initials, the word “of” and “time.” Having recently endured a twelve hour layover in a New Jersey airport with nowhere to take a nap, airport kiosk food and lack of sleep from making the Tampa to NJ flight at 6:30 a.m., I looked at this new word as being “the New Jersey of time,” meaning, I imagine, “an amount of time that seems neverending where you are stuck someplace uncomfortable.” It would seem a useful word in particular situations. For example, you could ask someone “how was that dinner at your in-laws’ last night” and they could respond “oh, it was a njoftime” and you’d know exactly what they meant. Or you might say “good thing you missed that budget meeting–big time njoftime.” Or, I just finished reading Greg’s blog–what a njoftime! Sadly for my simple brain, njoftime just means “information.”
The other seemingly useful Albanian-English word I’ve seen is “mallrash.” And they apparently deliver the stuff all over town because I’ve seen numerous big trucks with MALLRASH on the side or on the front dash driving around and parked in places. Actually, I greeted this new word with some recognition and relief because, being one who loathes going to shopping malls, I find that I often get “mallrash” when I make the mistake of allowing myself to be hauled along by my wife and/or daughter. There are several ways to get mallrash. One involves trying to perch oneself somewhere while one’s companions spend three hours trying on shoes or looking at that cute shirt or exchanging that item that “will just take a minute.” Unless you get lucky and find one of those chairs or benches, you have to perch on a rail like a pigeon or sit on some small step or maybe on something that was supposed to be an architectural accent, like a bowling-ball sort of thing that is high enough for a small seat but leaves you looking like you’re laying an egg and, of course, leaves you with a bad case of mallrash in indelicate places. You can also get mallrash from carrying other people’s purchases or from the painful grating of removing one’s bankcard from one’s wallet too much. My wife and daughter, however, are somehow immune to mallrash no matter how long or how often they have visited the mall. I suspect that my wife my be a carrier of mallrash but immune to its effects. Surprisingly, she’s quite sensitive to hardwarestorerash. In Albania, though, mallrash is just “cargo.”
If I keep my eyes open, though, I’m sure I’ll find some other useful words, as long as I don’t get mallrash from staying in the mall for a njoftime.