Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The language of puns

One of the interesting things about Sanskrit that leads to its poetic complexity is the double, triple, or even quadruple meaning of certain words.

Sanskrit is all about complex puns. Sanskrit will take a phrase like "That person has baggage" and mean both that they have literal baggage as well as problems from their past that screw with their present.

In fact, the number one itself has, as I've seen, close to 30 words for it. Words like sun and moon, of which there are only one in the world. It can lead to some fascinating metaphors.

For instance, there is a poem we read once that I loved - I have been searching for it but cannot remember its name or find it anywhere anymore, but it's entire meaning was of two. Read literally, it was about a tree's growth, and it's different stages. But the other meaning within was that the words could be taken to mean the different (I believe in Sanskrit there are 7) stages of love. Not just a metaphor, but actual literal meaning. (Eg one line could mean that the tree was becoming red with blooms but also could read that the man was bleeding from the heart).

There's another kind of interesting interpretation one can do with Sanskrit that is particular to its strange sandhi rules, where all the syllables are mashed together and you're not quite sure where words begin and ends. In fact, there was a verse where someone was addressing a god - and depending on where you broke it up - you could either be praising the God or being completely blasphemous. It all stood in perspective.

Perspective does seem to be everything, doesn't it?

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