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Letters from an alumni about Lost languages in the February 11, 2004, issue

February 29, 2004

Within the necessary trivia of Class Notes and athletic results, there are moments of subtle beauty. Three cheers for Elizabeth Seay '90, a fine piece of writing on an often neglected subject which concerns us all . Indeed her "words carry information the way cups carry liquid." Bravo!

Peter Wells Watkins '54
Washington, D.C.

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February 23, 2004

The recent article by Elizabeth Seay ’90, regarding lost languages was fascinating reading. I found poetry in her reference to the Micmac language of Canada, where trees are named by the “sound the wind makes when it blows through them.” Our languages are our metaphors, and each seems to offer us something special about the human perception of the world. I thank Ms. Seay for the lessons she is teaching through her research.

And in that regard I was interested to learn from the Washington Post the other day about the international sister-cities program. It was founded in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the hope that the personal relationships fostered through global affiliations would lessen the chance of international conflicts. The term “sister” city (as in “equals”), however doesn’t translate effectively in China, where there is no word for sisters who are equal. One must be either the big sister, the other sister, or the little sister. So in China, a different term is used. Language says so much about us, and as Ms. Seay points out, there is “accidental poetry found in the ordinary speech of another language.”

Rocky Semmes ‘79
Alexandria, Va.

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