English is a hard language to learn because it has so many words contributed by other languages. ESL is not an easy course. Unlike Japanese, for instance, where a whole concept can be embodied in just one word, for a great, large language like English there is sometimes, not too often but sometimes, something missing. There are many multi-word, many multi-sentence, ways to describe someone you know. I’ve been trying to think of some quickie labels. I’m stumped – especially for those I know on a brief encounter basis. Like all the Inuit words for snow and ice, we need a series of single words to describe the people in our lives.
Do you remember the book A Friend is Someone Who Likes You? If that is true – that a friend is someone who likes you - then many people have a friend in me. I like most people I meet. So if I like the gal who regularly checks out my purchases at the super market is she my friend? Not likely. An acquaintance? Well, maybe. I am acquainted with many gals in the community cooking club, but it’s quite a long way from acquaintance to friend. If asked do I know Susie-Q, an acquaintance of mine from the club, I shouldn’t answer “Yes, she’s a friend of mine.” That could lead to more in-depth questions than I have the knowledge to answer. Further questions wouldn’t arise if I had I a quickie label for the way I know her. Well, most of us gals like to gab anyway, so I suppose it’s not necessary to be brief. Besides which, there’d be a good, perhaps juicy, conversation about the person in question.
I’ve a wonderful friend I’ve never met. I guess I’d have to say we’re e-pen pals. We’ve a meeting of the minds and of our personalities, but not of our persons. We can’t gossip: we’ve no mutual ‘friends’, though we can safely dis some of the folks we know individually. We chatter back and forth via email, a letter and replies go back and forth in several print colors (colours: she’d Canadian!) It’s a rewarding exchange that covers everything from health and husbands, from Buddhism to books. I’ve no ‘friends’ I’ve known since childhood – or even since college-hood – and I’m acutely aware that I don’t need them. I’ve found a friend for my old age, and it is extremely satisfying and fulfilling. Namaste.