Language and Assumptions
Posted by: Denise Hill
Date: November 19, 2004 08:03PM
Language is one of the main cultural references unfamiliar to me. The use of “Eh, eh,” as the narrator picks up the child. Even something as minor as the sounds people make can be driven by cultural context. I don’t recognize the sound “Eh, eh” as a response. For me and my family it might be “Hey, hey” or “Yeah, yeah.” Some sounds I have assimilated into my speech, such as “enit” which is more common among Indian speakers. I do not want to take references for granted, such as when the narrator says, “I take the hint and sing the old lullaby her / great-grandmother sang to the child I once was.” I am curious to know what that lullaby was, as I am curious if it is similar to the types of lullabies I know from my childhood. In the final lines, there is also a reference to the child coming to the table snuggling “comfortably into the circle around the table,” which I assume to be a community circle as much as a circle simply sitting around the table, and I wonder about the importance of such circles among women in this culture. The repeated phrase throughout the poem, “She’s so sweet, we don’t know what to do” – I wonder if this is a cultural phrase or not. That is, is it a colloquialism among a community or region of people. Clearly, in the poem, it can have many meanings, both hopeful and sorrowful, and so I wonder if it is a saying that is commonly used and here brought into these many meanings.
To try to find answers to my questions, I would definitely have to turn to the Internet as my main source (this website for starters!), living in the middle of nowhere, and hope to find some basic information on the author, the culture and this poem in particular. I would also turn to a friend of mine who is an anthropologist and who teaches Native American studies classes. I think he might be able to give me some insight as well as have some good discussion with me on the poem.