Saudade and Collecting Words

I am a collector…

A language collector.

Yep. I’m a proud language collector. I love listening to languages and attempting to learn them.

I am also a word collector.

I think collecting both of these makes sense. They are a solid union.

I do collect phrases, too.

Must not forget the phrases.

I wish I could say that I’m a sentence collector, but I’m not.

As a matter of fact, I can become befuddled by sentences to the point that I am forced to stop and reread (which may not be a bad thing) the sentence at a much slower pace.

However, I am a paragraph collector.

I can tell you favorite paragraphs of books. Which also leads me to being a bit of a chapter collector as well. Yep. I fall in love with chapters of books.

I suppose if you really got to the nitty gritty, you’d find that I’m also a bit of a article collector.

I love articles from magazines and newspapers. I love paragraphs in articles as well. But the reality is that my collection of chapters is greater than my collection of paragraphs and my collection of paragraphs is greater from books than from articles.

I tend to think that there are many people out there like me who also collect words, languages, paragraphs and chapters. English majors out there- I know you are!  Journalists, too! Really, anyone who has a love for words.  Which is why it makes sense that me, the English Literature major in undergrad and the current, stationery company own/designer is admitting to being a word and language lover and collector.

My history with languages (since that is the point of this posting) is not that great. My knowledge of Spanish, French and Italian are there. I am strongest with Spanish, but I still have a fear of speaking. French and Italian, I CAN speak, but again, I’m fearful of speaking, so I just sit and look pretty.  I can read all three languages well and I can write out words and thoughts, and can string sentences together in my head, but I’d never say I’m fluent.

It’s my own fault because I don’t practice; I choose to let fear get in the way. Bad, I know, yet, I’ve never stopped loving other languages and wanting to learn them. In fact, I love exploring and being surrounded by them.

While I traveled around Italy in 2009, I did practice some Italian, but I found myself sitting and listening most of the time. A few weeks ago while on the subway, three French guys got on and stood next to me  speaking in French and all I could do was smile and think about how much I love their language.  It’s often the same with Spanish. I love listening to my Mom and aunts speak their native language. It fills me up and makes me feel warm.

Now, there are some languages where I just have no desire to learn, but I love them just the same – German, Russian, Chinese, etc.   And yet, there are words in each of these languages that I love. That I love so much, I remember them and they become markers of my life.

A great example happened fairly recently- over the weekend, while watching hurricane Irene have her whirl, I sat about reading a handful of magazines. One of them was NY Magazine’s Fashion issue, which I normally flip through quickly, but this time I found myself returning to an interview/article about China Machado, the first non-­Caucasian model to be featured in fashion magazines. I didn’t know anything about her (silly me!), but I read her article with curiosity and appreciation.

At the end of the article, she is quoted with the following, “In Portuguese you call it ­saudade,” she says. “It means a kind of longing and a love that still remains, that every once in a while when you think about it, it is with nice memories. It’s a missing. The other word in Portuguese that is similar is lembranças. Memories. They’re both beautiful words.”

For 30 minutes, I flipped through the rest of the magazine and yet found myself staring back at those sentences over and over. I had found my new favorite foreign word-saudade! I understand why she mentions the word “lembranças”, but as I think about the two words, I know I love “saudade” more.

Maybe it’s because I know what it means to feel saudade deeply. Not discrediting anyone else’s saudade, but I feel this word deep in my bones in much the same way I do a strong gust of winter cold that I can’t shake in January.  I think all saudade never leaves the person, but they (the “missing”) have to be a true missing.

This morning, as I rode the bus back to NYC, I realized that I had tossed my issue in the recycling bin before leaving Virginia, but kept hearing the word saudade in my head. I made it a top priority to get online and read the article so that I could find Ms. Machado’s lovely explanation.  As you can see I did and just as great as my desire to find it and have it committed to memory is my desire to share the word with you.

So here I am ready to keep an open pair of ears to the language known as Portuguese. This words has sparked an interest in Portuguese, a language that I’ve always considered too foreign for me (although, remember I’m studying Japanese?!)  because the pronunciation, even with it’s root in romance languages, has always seemed a bit off to me, that I have never had.

Maybe one day I’ll find myself not just a Portuguese language word collector, but a collector of the actual full language.  I should probably get to facing my fear of speaking the three languages I “know” first.


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s2 stationery & designs

A rule-breaking designer, artist & entrepreneur who's passionate about paper and handcrafting stationery. I also write, travel, and focus on eco + social good.

2 thoughts on “Saudade and Collecting Words”

  1. Thank you, I love that you feel the word “Saudade” It is a very common word used by Portuguese and Brazilian people. We are romantics and somehow this word says so much.Please learn more about the Portuguese language there are so many musical words. Sincerly China Machado

    1. I will definitely, China! After reading your interview, I could not stop thinking about the word and I had to write about it. I’m a bit of a romantic. Actually, I’m a huge romantic, I think that’s why I love the word so much. Thank you for taking the time to respond. Cheers, Sara Stroman

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