I've always loved how words sound. I love listening to language, reading it, savoring it whether it is poor or superb. Languages I don't know are especially appealing. In twenty years I've attempted to learn three different languages and none of them has yet took. From Japanese to Farsi to Swedish, I am best at recalling forbidden words and how to ask for an oil change.
My grandpa taught all five of his granddaughters a little Swedish limerick. From the time we could first speak Grandpa Johnson patiently repeated the words until we memorized the poem. Grandpa was delighted when we mimicked his lilting Swedish timbre.
We girls, in turn, taught the beloved but mysterious rhyme to our children. One of my nieces even performed the poem at a talent show when she was a toddler. Some years after Grandpa's death I happily recited my Swedish ditty to Norwegian friends at a dinner party. Parents ear-muffed their children and looked at me with horror, then discreetly informed me that Grandpa's poem was actually a dirty story about a peeping Tom.
Ah, the power of words.
Recently I heard a Hmong story of interpretation. A farmer who collects seeds told us that she brought with her from Laos seeds with a name she did not have English words to describe for us. "Literally, the plant is called Stepping Out On My Man," she explained. Our ears perked up. How intriguing! The plant is coined Adulterous Greens for farmers market sensibilities.
When the greens appear in my garden this spring, perhaps I will pair them with a naughty little dressing from Sweden.