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Monday, July 15, 2013

Felicitous Felinity (10)—Irredentist

Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series Felicitous Felinity.
A year ago on Round and Square (15 July 2012)—Asian Ethnicities: Korea (b)
Two years ago on Round and Square (15 July 2011)—La Tour de la France: Clouds on the Mountain

[a] Staying put RF

It's not a scary oral surgeon, nor even one who practices on the lapping shores of Cleveland. It is a word that has been on my mind this week, and for reasons that push more than a century back into the past (I call this "recent history"). It is the French past, though, and that holds, for moi, a special place.
[b] Territory RF

Irredentism, you see, has everything to do with gettin' stuff back that you think is yours. After the Franco-Prussian War, a whole bunch of people in what was left of France had irredentist passions flame forth in all sorts of ways. They longed for large chunks called "Alsace" and "Lorraine." One of them got so worked up that she wrote a book that almost everyone in France read for a century. It tells the story of two young orphans who leave German-occupied Phalsbourg in search of their motherland. André and little Julien's adventures fueled "fourth-graders"* in France with a didactic narrative about love of country and irredentist fuming.
*It was part of the standard cours moyen curriculum.

It was published in 1877. Thirty-six years later, it inspired a little bike race called the Tour de France. I hear the race is still going on. I have written about this (and translated part of the book) elsewhere on Round and Square. For today, though, it is the irredentist drive to regain lost territory that is on my mind. If you pay any attention to, say, East Asian affairs, you will know a bit about this. The Middle East has a few such story lines, too, as does that former hotbed of confrontation, Europe.
[c] Pylon RF

Although the word refers specifically to political agendas for regaining territory, it is not hard to imagine a figurative world of references that bring us to Cat Culture. Now, have you ever seen the look on Fluffy's face when a mere human is sitting in her favorite couch-spot? An irredentist scowl, I call it, and the squawk that follows is no dulcet purr. The same irredentist urge can be seen when one of our Maine Coons, Rhonda, waddles up to a particularly soft and warm sleeping spot that her brother, Vic, already occupies. She begins by licking his tired head, and cleaning his ears. He thinks he has gone to kitty heaven. Then, one quick, firm bite on his ear and he is gone in search of other comforters to conquer.

And don't even begin to get me talking about sports. The "not in my house" theme has gone from street ball to the NBA, and on to popular culture.

Irredentist. A cat would say "this is my leave me alone." 
[d] Irenic is better RF


American Heritage Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary**
**(Beloit College students and faculty: this is available through the library. Many other RSQ readers may find the link through a college, university, or local library). The "OED" is the best, by far, of any English language dictionary on the planet. Among mere mortals, the American Heritage is superior to anything else (I have loved it since I was a child, and my father taught me the many meanings of "culture"). I use the Merriam-Webster site because it is solid and everyone around the world can access it. Find your way to AHD or OED, though. The latter is even worth $295 a year (seriously). Words matter.
***  ***
Irredentist—give me my stuff back.
[e] Give it back RF

Now we come to the little twist that I didn't tell you about in the introduction to this series. If your native language is not English, go to the comments section and give a rough translation that "works" for you. I am hoping to get a whole passel of approximations for "irredentist" in languages ranging from Bengali and Greek to Laotian and Turkish. And of course they will be approximations. Language doesn't have any exact equivalents. That would be boring (try to find a synonym for "the whole nine yards" for measuring totality's sake).

So what's a word that means something like "we want our land (back)" in your native language?

And, if you really want to think about how to make use of vocabulary, use a sentence that you might actually speak or write.

          The irredentist charm of Augustine Fouillée's little 1877 classic, Le tour 
          de la France par deux enfants lacks only one clincher—there are few
          cats in the story.

Irredentist. It's all about desire for territory. Cats understand this. 
[f] Territory RF

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