While this is actually an Italian word none of us are immune to revisiting old stomping grounds. The only thing keeping me from falling into the arms of an old flame is the setting on my Iphone that prompts it to explode if I drunk dial the number of an ex boyfriend. When that fails (I’m on phone number 4) I have a mantra I recite at my weakest moments – “you are a strong, confident woman and if you give in to your impulses a murder of crows will swoop down on your house and steal all of your Tiffany jewellery. And then poke your eyes out for good measure.” It’s a mouthful, but believe me, it’s like a condom for the soul. It’s disappointing that we don’t have a word for this in English but I guess we’re too proper to admit to such reckless folly (“you went back to him again?”) The Italians can smile knowingly over a bowl of spaghetti (“si, es Cavoli Riscaldati“) while we clumsily string words together in attempt to articulate the same experience.
Do you remember when you were a kid dressing up as Peter Pan and assuring all your new found ‘Lost Boys’ that this was Neverland and none of you would ever grow up? You struck metal with your imaginary swords and ran through the streets caw cawing at the top of your lungs and promised each other you would be friends forever.
Kids have no inhibitions, they approach life whole heartedly and people without ambivalence. Their language is different to ours. It isn’t chipped with sarcasm or hardened with layers of meaning. To ‘play’ really means to play. They see things differently. Where we see an empty cardboard box they see a spaceship, what is seemingly an empty room is actually a portal into a world under the sea. They build secret hideaways and fortresses through the power of their shared imagination. Everything they touch turns into something magical that transports them far away to a place that grown ups can’t access. Within minutes of meeting this other kid they have already embarked on more adventures than they ever will for the entirety of their adult life.
Earlier this year, there was an article in the New York Times titled ‘To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This’. It was based on a study that indicated that intimacy between two strangers can be accelerated by asking a series of 36 specific questions. In other words, literally, to fall in love with anyone – do this!
So, in the name of research, I wrangled my friend into completing the above exercise with me. Unfortunately, none of my male friends were game (pussies) so I targeted my female housemate instead. Granted, we have lived together for two years and, until then, I would have said that we knew each other pretty well. Quickly, you discover that most of what you know about your friends is of the superficial variety. All those cumulative hours of bathroom banter and making fun of all the characters in ‘Made in Chelsea’ and drinking into the wee hours of the morning. They only crack the surface of our understanding of the people around us, even the ones whom we share a fridge with.
I only learnt this word recently and have been dunandunating all over the place ever since. Case in point. The reason I’d never heard of it before is because it was rejected by the Oxford English Dictionary and permanently resides in a secret vault deemed as ‘non-words’ for every day activities. I feel the need to present an argument for why this word and other ‘non-words’ are relevant and should be released from their lexical prison. Most of the words I use in this blog deliberately invoke a sense of ‘melancholy’ and as such I can’t help but try and worm the word ‘melancholy’ in between sentences like a Spaniard might sneak jamon into a sandwich. My housemates have set up a word jar in our house. It’s like a swear jar except I have to deposit a pound into it every time I use words synonymous with ‘melancholy’ or ‘lament’ or ‘obscure’. Similarly, I have learnt many new words since starting this project and find myself actually steering conversations in a particular direction whereby I can casually drop one of my newly learnt words. Like casting a line into a river of fish, I’m always at the ready to reel people in with my charming wordplay. Sure enough, thirty minutes and twelve death stares from my housemates later I find myself £12 poorer. So how can dunandunate not apply to my life when the very root of it is robbing me blind?