“Long night” is a seasonal reference for mid- to late-autumn in my mother tongue. It is so because nights grow longer after today, Fall Equinox, on which daytime and nighttime are approximately equal. Moreover, harvesting is usually complete by this time, so people are in the mood for celebration… and with plenty of fresh crops and their products just waiting to be ingested, autumn nights are bound to get even longer!
In addition, the climate gets milder and the air becomes clearer, so people can enjoy the nightlife more comfortably for a longer time, indoors or out. There are so much to do around this time of the year – picking up a mystery novel you do not want to be interrupted reading, unleashing your creative mind and getting your hands on a masterpiece-to-be, opening the window slightly to listen in on a big chirping chorus by the different crickets, taking a walk to look up at the beautiful moon and breathe in the scent of sweet osmanthus… you name it.
So, you see, “long night” is astronomically and culturally backed up, and lets you conjure up in an instant many many images of autumn, making it an excellent seasonal reference. And on top of its semantic and visual superiority, I personally like its phonics, especially when its last syllable is pronounced as a nasal sound, giving the word a soft lingering effect on the ears. (It is so unfortunate it gets lost in translation!) All in all, it is a beautiful word I would love to see being used as it is intended to mean, both written and spoken, in my time and for many generations to come.
This particular word is in frequent use when its season comes, and it is simple enough not to be misused. But there are many others that my people are using less and/or incorrectly, ignorantly or intentionally. For all I know, I may well be one of them… after all, I had spent a considerable amount of time speaking very little of my mother tongue, and there are still so many words I am discovering how to use (hopefully in the right way) every day.
Maybe words will change in usage and meaning as time goes by, regardless of how hard I try to learn them.
Maybe some words will disappear, unable to survive the test of time, no matter what we do to try to preserve them.
Maybe they are rightly put to rest because they are just remaining bones of what were once flesh and blood.
But maybe there are some words that define who we are.
And maybe every time we lose one of them, we lose with them a meaning or an image or a sound… a thought (or a chain of thoughts) they represent and symbolize.
Maybe we lose with them bits of our culture, our identity, ourselves.
One of the things I find very important when translating between languages is that, not only do I know the meaning of the words I translate and use them properly, I become familiarized with their lexicology as best I can. Very important, because there are many cases in which I cannot find the exact word-for-word translation and instead, am made explain by breaking them down into components – meanings, images, sounds… thoughts they represent and symbolize… their association with our culture, our identity, and ourselves. And when I do so, they are understood and appreciated much more deeply.
As the nights grow longer this autumn, I hope my people will enjoy the season doing the many things the seasonal reference “long night” makes them want to do. And when they do, I hope they will take a portion of their long nights to give thoughts on why they enjoy the things they do… and find beautiful words and everything associated with them that have been passed down to us by our ancestors as guides on how to enjoy the season.
I shall too, so I can share better myself and everything associated with me with you here!