Maddenation

Quotidian

I, like David, find it more convenient to post a new entry to answer a question from a previous post.

Quotidian: everyday, common, mundane.

When I was a missionary in Uruguay, I learned and learned to love the word cotidiana. It was a romantic-sounding way to talk about your goings-on, your unexciting life. But people used it in their everyday speech, not like it was a “vocaublary word.” So I loved it all the more.

Then I returned to the United States, and I had cotidiana on the brain. It would come back now and then, and I’d wish I had a way of saying it in English. I tried to look it up several times, in several different dictionaries, always under the letter C. Of course, I never found it. What’s more, I was learning to write essays, which often focus not on extraordinary events, but on everyday domesticity and the meditations we get from it. The best essays, it seems to me, are those that make something wonderful (by using excellent language) of something common. I wanted a word like cotidiana all the more.

Then, one day, when I was looking up a word for an essay I was writing, I flipped through the Q_s, and my eye came to rest on the word at the top of the page: _quotidian. I couldn’t believe it! I had hoped so much for this word, and there it was! I rubbed my eyes, almost afraid to read its definition, afraid it might not mean what it had to mean. But I dared. I read. And what joy! I had found the word I had so long sought.

From then on, of course, I read the word in essays and heard it in conversations. I used it myself as much as I could, eventually naming a collection of essays I wrote at Ohio Quotidiana, meaning “quotidian things.” I found, soon after deciding the name for my book, a book of poetry by Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti called Cotidianas and I translated some of the poems in it. I checked to see if quotidiana.com was available, and it wasn’t! I couldn’t believe it. I contacted the people who owned it (and who weren’t actually using it) and they wanted to sell it to me for $1,000. I was like, uh, yeah, right. (The domain is now available, but I haven’t bought it.)

How could I hear and see this word so often after I learned it, but never notice it before then? Especially when I was actively seeking the word?

This is the mystery of ubiquitous delayed realizations, or whatever we finally want to call them.

But I am content, at least, that I have found my word.

PatrickExplanations02/22/03 1 comments

Comments

Dad • 02/24/03 10:31 PM:

I can attest that I never heard the word quotidian before Patrick introduced it, and now I’ve seen it in print numerous times, and even heard it at least once (but I can’t remember where). I was going to put this remark under “ubiquitous delayed realizations” but decided against creating a new category for what might be a single entry.

I know I was the first to add to the category list (with connections), but maybe we ought to be cautious about it, lest we “organize” into more “bins” than is practical. Guess we can always consolidate later if necessary.

I heard once that Dewey, of Dewey decimal system fame, once proved that it is impossible to categorize everything perfectly. One of these days, I might look up his paper or article and see what he had to say. Maybe I’ll do that right after I look up the biography of Coriolis (of Coriolis Force fame [but I think it’s not really a force]).

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