In a few weeks, I'll be off to Mexico for several weeks of language intensive, so my Spanish-fluent, language- and word-oriented partner often offers bits and pieces to help my progress. This morning's conversation involved the definition of "bow" … arco … and then moved to "rainbow." I know the word for "rain" … lluvia … so I guessed arco de lluvia.
Wrong … thinking like an English speaker, logical, left-brained, rather than metaphorical, right-brained. The Spanish word for "rainbow" is arco iris … an honoring of Iris, the messenger goddess who links the gods and humanity, rather than a simple description of a meteorological event.
Somehow the difference in words for one common event struck me and reminded me of the cycle of language and culture. Which creates which? Do words arise out of our common culture, or does our culture arise out of our words? Most likely both, however, it seems to me that looking at the bright spectrum of color that accompanies a rainy day and thinking "rainbow" creates a different perspective and feeling state than looking at the same wonder and thinking "arco iris"
I am looking forward to delving into a new language, not only for the ability to communicate in a new way but also for the different perspectives of the world that new words might bring.