Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Another Word for Bird

Let there be an outdoor deck with beige planks hot from sun exposure in the shadow of a white house surrounded by woods. Then let it be populated with potted annuals, a hibiscus, and a prehistoric canna extending a red bloom approximately two feet above my head.  Furnish this outdoor living space with stylish weatherproof furniture from Target’s Patio and Garden department, and do not omit the fountain of Buddha that ceases to spurt water whenever the sun descends behind a billowing cumulus cloud.
Then, if you will, paint me a black wicker couch with faded, orange cushions and a glass topped table. Let this table be strewn with white index cards, smudged with the dark ink of a Pentel click pen which sits atop a striped notebook, a Czech/English Dictionary, and a copy of Casanova’s autobiography stacked one upon the other. On the table, paint me a floral tea cup in Christmas colors, filled with water because at home I only take beverages in teacups. Paint me a black and white cat lounging on an orange cushion and, beside the couch, a Venus flytrap photosynthesizing. (In ten minute intervals, so as to prevent a brush fire.)
Somewhere between the cat and the flytrap you may sketch me onto the couch however you’d like, because I prefer to be mysterious. Perhaps I am holding an index card with the Czech word for “purple,” attempting all seven syllables without breaking to take my inhaler. Perhaps I am distracted by a small black dog of German descent which is yipping and begging at my feet. Begging for what? Knowledge, I assume.
This is a reasonably clear picture of how I’ve been spending my free time. I have one month left to work on my Czech language skills, and I have encountered sources suggesting that I use pneumonics to easily remember new words. I decided I would make index cards with the Czech word and a picture to help me remember it.
Going through the flashcards after the fact, I realize that some are more confusing than helpful. The word for “purple” (cervenofialovy) is accompanied by a sketch of an eggplant, but every time I see it I have to think about what it’s supposed to be. I don’t know why eggplants were the first thing to come to mind that day when I thought about purple, but it will probably never happen again.
I used birds as the pictures on at least five of the cards. I paired the word for “yellow” (zluty) with a rubber duck, but when I come across the card and see the picture, I think, “Bird.” I thought of peacocks when I was drawing a picture to accompany the word for “blue” (modry). When I see peacock on the card, I think of neither blue nor peacocks. I think: “Bird.” In my mind there are several words that mean “bird,” but none of them actually mean “bird.”

I have a similar problem with my “May” card, which depicts a inscrutable sketch of the Mayflower, steered into Plymouth Rock by a stick figure pilgrim. I see the card, and I think: “Boat.” For morning I scribbled a cranky looking cartoon of a man drinking coffee, but the coffee looks like beer and he looks like an angry drunk. I’m not worried that I will confuse it with the word “beer,” because even the shakiest beginner knows that one.

I drew a teapot on my card for “tea” (Caj, pronounced “chai,” oddly enough. Do I see evidence of the Indo-European language branch?). The teapot slowly morphed into an elephant while I was drawing it, and now that card just confuses me altogether.


  1. you should have just gotten markers and scribbled some purple, blue or yellow on the cards corresponding with those words. i would've drawn the ocean for blue, though.

  2. You're a genius, Chief. The ocean. Huh.