What words mean Tuesday June 23, 2009

Yesterday a small moment in my local library reminded me about the interesting things language can do. I went to the front desk to ask about a particular book. I reserved it, handing over my library card details. Usual stuff (I’m a regular).

The librarian leaned over and wrote a word on my piece of paper. I looked down, expecting to see an ISBN number or something like that. Instead I saw a word that looked like my first name – but also not like it. The man explained, smiling like he was sharing a secret, “If you put an ‘o’ in the place of the first ‘a’ in your name, you get the name of my birthplace in Bangladesh. Comilla.”

One letter had bridged the gap between my first name and the start of a complete stranger’s life. Sometimes it seems we’re only words, not worlds, apart.

(And in case you didn’t know, Comilla is noted for its educational establishments and for producing delicious sweets, amongst other things.)

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