noun: Space required for living, growth, and development.

Peace Corps Letters

God bless the Germans for their command of language. Want romance? See French. Spiciness? Spanish. The language of literature — Shakespeare’s English. Poetry? Persian. But German? Like their cars, their shoes and their way of life — it is efficient. I admire such precision (and often lament, “Why isn’t there a word for this?”)

Peace Corps Letters

I subscribe to AWAD. Have you heard of this? An ex-boyfriend was a word junkie. He regularly kicked my chagrined butt at Scrabble. To cheer me up after yet another defeat one sad evening, he quietly subscribed me to AWAD. I couldn’t have been given a more thoughtful gift.

My favorite email of the week arrives Sunday when the word dorks around the world come together for the week’s compendium email. Each week has a theme. The Sunday review includes the craziest and wittiest emails Anu Garg — the creator — has received. At times there is a challenge or prize associated, but the real reward is the quirky multilingual views and opinions people about have about language.

In other words — word nerd heaven.

I’ve shared these compendium email several times with other friends to note the strange and interesting comments only to receive “what a bunch of pretentious asshats!” as a response.

Needless to say, these pretentious wordie asshats are my people.

Peace Corps Letters

A few weeks ago, the theme of AWAD was German words. This was yet another reminder of the fluidity of language — how English has been modified with time by the influence of other cultures. The words included lebensraum and:

  • Sitzfleisch noun: 1. The ability to sit through or tolerate something boring.2. The ability to endure or persist in a task.
  • ersatz adjective:  Serving as a substitute, especially of inferior quality; artificial.  noun: A substitute or imitation.
  • diktat  noun: 1. An order or decree imposed without popular consent. 2. A harsh settlement imposed upon a defeated party.
  • schwarmerei noun:  1. Extravagant enthusiasm.2. Excessive sentimentality.

Peace Corps Letters

With quite a bit of characteristic schwarmerei tucked in my pocket this weekend, I continued packing for my move. This included a giant shoe box of letters I’d stashed in the back of the hall closet. Not necessarily forgotten, but certainly years since being opened, I decided it was time to do something with the countless sentiments mailed around the world when I was in the Peace Corps.

The tiny bits of ephemera I saved was unbelievable. I had handwritten love letters from my Peace Corps boyfriend, my notice of early termination and plane tickets receipt, emails printed out from the one house in my training community that had Internet access (still a miracle, now that I think about it) and more.  Even more, I found letter after letter from family, my closest girlfriends, ministers and others who wanted to know I was supported and loved.

(Also mailed to Cameroon: the People magazine spread on Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston’s wedding; the notice of Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid’s divorce; gobs of photos of baby Bennett who will soon be 11!; and the hilarious and wickedly entertaining tomes of my closest girlfriends’ college romances. I was laughing as hard as I was crying while organizing.)

With time, I’ll scan these and make them into a book to be saved forever. For now, they are behind plastic sleeves and still very much cherished.

The greatest gift is that of lebensraum: noun: Space required for living, growth, and development.