03 December 2013

Portraits of an Intimate Nature

Time for a post on photography...

I've got a few running themes that go through much of my photography. Some time ago, I decided I wasn't a landscape photographer, though I take plenty of pictures of nature. My nature shots tend to be more about details, close-ups — and yet it's not macro photography.

It occurred to me to begin thinking of my nature photography as portraits, intimate portraits in a way. Some quiet natural detail or moment -- often out of context.* I came up with this blog entry's title, meant as a play on words and also as a characterization of many of my nature images.

Rather than spend more words to try to describe what I mean, here is a selection of fifteen images to show you.

Portraits of an Intimate Nature
All of these pictures share a quiet, contemplative feeling that I can only describe as "intimate".

o - o - o

* "Out of context" is itself a running theme I apply to more than my nature photography.

29 November 2013

Advent Is Coming!

On the eve of Advent, a little exploration of things to come...

A few weeks ago, a friend was wondering what the German word Sonnabend means. The answer is "Saturday", but it's not the normal word for Saturday (that's Samstag). Hence his wonderment.

I started musing on why there's this second word for Saturday, and where that word might have come from.

My departure point is usually to think of other words with one or more of the same roots as my object of investigation. In this case:

  • Abend ("evening")
  • Feierabend (basically, "the end of the work day")

The latter adds to "evening" the concept of feiern (the verb "to celebrate"), which makes a lot of sense at the end of the work day. But why have a word that literally translates to "celebrate-evening" but designates the part of the day before the evening? Similarly, the Sonnabend designation of Saturday as "Sun-evening" seems to put the cart before the horse.

In both instances, -abend is used to designate a moment now, but before the other part of the word ("celebration" and "Sunday").

Maybe, I thought, I'm thinking of "evening" as too limited, as a specific evening part of the day. Maybe there's some more original idea in the word "evening".

Then it hit me how similar German Abend is to English (and others from Latin) advent! I don't know why it took me so long to get here... Because advent means, loosely, "something coming" (L. ad-venire = "to come to"). And then it also hit me how French avenir ("future", as in "something to come") also comes from the same L. root.

So "evening", Ger. Abend and the Fr. word for "future" are all related, and we can see that in our English use of an expression like "on the eve of..."

With this understanding, it becomes very clear why Germans might say Feierabend or Sonnabend, because they're talking about the thing to come, or in these cases, "celebration" and "Sunday".

And with that, if you hadn't already thought of it, I direct your attention to the first line of this entry.

Happy Holiday Evenings!

24 October 2013

Like, Where's That From?

The other day I was thinking about German suffixes, as one does, and their English equivalents. 

For example:

-heit  (E. -ness, as in Blindheit, or "blindness");
-keit (E. -ness, as in Einsamkeit, or "loneliness"); 
-schaft (E. -ness, as in Bereitschaft, or "readiness")*; or even 
-nis (-niß) (which, after all is said and done, also has a ness-ness to it).

I have a particular fondheit for the suffix -lich. It corresponds roughly to the English -ly suffix, and is used in German as a frequent adjectival ending. In English it's evident mostly in adverbs ("mostly", "quickly") and a few adjectives ("friendly", "likely"). 

Thinking about English -ly, it seems clear that it means like, as in "friend-like". Adverbially (which is the adverbial form of "adverbial"), you can see this connection in such a colloquialism as "quick-like" (instead of "quickly").** 

It doesn't seem hard to get from the use of -ly as a suffix — as a grammatical form appended to the end of a noun or adverb — to the stand-alone use of the word like, as in "this whisky is like molten gold". 

I'm not aware of a German word that looks like -lich and is at the same time used like like. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist. But since much of this blog's word play is about "speculative linguistics", I can speculate that we derive our English stand-alone like from the German -lich suffix, by way of our English -ly.

Is my speculation correct? I like to think it's likely.

- o - o -

* Okay, -schaft is more properly E. -ship, but that's a synonym for -ness.

** It's fortunate we have this colloquial form to resort to, because then we can make adverbs out of some awkward adjectives like "friendly". Saying something is "all friendly-like" is nicer than saying friendlily.

- o - o -

Now, where does the verb to like fit into all this? Maybe it began through the use of the above mentioned stand-alone like as a downgrading of to love. According to this theory, the first instance could have gone something like this:

He: Do you love me?
She: Hm, well...
He: Do you not love me?
She: I wouldn't say love, darling, but something very much like it. Not quite love, but like.