My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences. And it was the concern and caring of all those women which gave me strength…

This is not simply a war language; this is an American language. In Sharif’s rendering, “Look” is at once a command to see and to grieve the people these words describe — and also a means of implicating the reader in the violence delivered upon those people.

A Poet Subverts the Defense Department’s Official Dictionary Natalie Diaz reviews Solmaz Sharif’s poetry collection Look for the New York Times.

We do things with language, produce effects with language, and we do things to language, but language is also the thing that we do. Language is a name for our doing: both “what” we do (the name for the action that we characteristically perform) and that which we effect, the act and its consequences.

Judith Butler Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. (1997) 7-8


If you’ve been following the Greek financial crisis, you’ve
certainly seen that old cliché “it’s all Greek to me” in the headlines. Wall Street Journal language columnist Ben
Zimmer says Shakespeare probably popularized the phrase, but he didn’t actually
come up with it. Its true origin is a bit of a mystery, though Zimmer says there’s
a pretty good guess:

Back in the days before the printing press, medieval monks
would copy old Latin manuscripts to preserve them, but the Greek alphabet threw
them for a loop.

“And so if
they were copying a Latin manuscript, and they came across a Greek quotation in
a manuscript, they might have trouble actually trying to copy that part,”
Zimmer says. “And so as a kind of a cop-out, they might just write in
Latin, Graecum est, non legitur, which
means, ‘This is Greek. It cannot be read.’ ”

It All Greek To You? Thank Medieval Monks, And The Bard, For The Phrase

Image: Greek flags fly
beside those of the European Union in Athens. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)