Some people (I call them explaneedfuls) need an explanation for everything and often an explanation of the explanation as well. A long time ago I met one of them. I was asked to go to a TV studio in Italy to assist the host of a programme covering the Oscar awards ceremony. I thought I was going to be there to interpret, which is what I usually do, but it turned out that the core of my job was to make sure the Italian host understood the jokes people made during the ceremony.
Jokes are definitely one of the hardest things to translate but in this case the real problem was that the person was devoid of any sense of humour and the more one took the pieces of the witticisms apart and described how they were supposed to interact the more bewilderment descended on his features. I began to wonder whether he was actually an alien from a race with no jokes who had infiltrated our society to spy on us. They had managed to copy all our bodily components perfectly but they had no idea on how to instil humour into a fake human.
I’m sure you’ve met at least one explaneedful person. I sometimes think about them when I read haikus.
Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house
This must be bewildering for them. What does it mean? What purpose does it serve? Can you build it? So in order to assist them to get a grip on these slithery texts, I thought it would be useful to explain them. I’m not capable of doing that myself but what better place to find explanations of words than a dictionary? Here goes (I have replaced all words, except for “don’t” and “I” with their dictionary definitions).
Don’t feel feel anxious or troubled about actual or potential problems eight-legged predatory arachnids with an unsegmented bodies consisting of a fused heads and thoraxes and rounded abdomens, I do the cooking, cleaning, and other tasks involved in the running of a household in a relaxed and unconcerned way.
This may sound less poetic (poetry: literary work in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm) than the original but, looking at it from an arachnid’s viewpoint, the promise actually sounds more reassuring than the original because the author has taken the trouble to observe the structure of the animals’ bodies, which suggests that he has given the matter some thought.
And here’s another one:
A monk sips morning tea,
the chrysanthemum’s flowering.
a member of a religious community of men typically living under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience drinks a hot drink made by infusing the crushed leaves of the tea plant in boiling water by taking small mouthfuls in the period of time between sunrise and noon, it’s without much activity, disturbance, or excitement , a plant of the daisy family with brightly coloured ornamental flowers, existing in many cultivated varieties is producing flowers.
Which works very well in my opinion. The monk becomes much more of an individual and all the detail at the start, especially all the complication involved in drinking tea, makes the scene much more busy so that the plant unemotionally producing flowers makes a much more striking contrast.
As I said, some explaneedfuls need explanations of explanations as well, so we can now try to define all the definitions we’ve just assembled and produce a second-level haiku.
a person, animal, or plant belonging to a a group of adult human males relating to or believing in a religion and in most cases spending their life under the solemn promise of the state of being extremely poor, the state or practice of refraining from extramarital, or especially from all, sexual intercourse, and compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another’s authority
takes into the mouth and swallows a liquid having a high degree of heat or a high temperature that can be swallowed as refreshment or nourishment, prepared by soaking in liquid to extract the flavour or healing properties of the deformed, pulverized, or forced-inwards-by-compressing-forcefully flattened structure of a higher plant, typically green and blade-like, that is attached to a stem directly or via a stalk of the the evergreen shrub or small tree which produces tea leaves, native to southern and eastern Asia and grown as a major cash crop, in a colourless, transparent, odourless, liquid which forms the seas, lakes, rivers, and rain and is the basis of the fluids of living organisms in at or near boiling point by consuming not-great-in-amount quantities of drink that fill or can be put in the mouth
in the portion of the continued progress of existence between the time in the morning when the sun appears or full daylight arrives and twelve o’clock in the day,
it’s without much busy or vigorous action or movement, interruption of a settled and peaceful condition, or a feeling of great enthusiasm and eagerness,
a living organism of the kind exemplified by trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses, ferns, and mosses, typically growing in a permanent site, absorbing water and inorganic substances through its roots, and synthesising nutrients in its leaves by photosynthesis using the green pigment chlorophyll, of the small European grassland plant which has flowers with a yellow disc and white rays
of the principal taxonomic category that ranks above genus and below order
having decorative shiny colours on its seed-bearing parts, having objective reality or being in many cultivated forms prepared for crops or gardening is creating or forming seed-bearing parts, consisting of reproductive organs (stamens and carpels) that are typically surrounded by a brightly coloured corolla (petals) and a green calyx (sepals)
It is exciting to think that every time you use a tea-bag you are interacting with “liquid which forms the seas, lakes, rivers, and rain and is the basis of the fluids of living organisms”.
If you were to continue defining definitions for an afternoon you could probably end up with a five-hundred page novel.
It does in any case remind us how much is contained in the objects we do and in even the simplest things we do. Take this single verb –
to walk in a military manner with a regular measured tread
or (next level)
to move at a regular pace by lifting and setting down each foot in turn, never having both feet off the ground at once in a way relating to or characteristic of soldiers or armed forces with a manner of walking or a sound made as one walks which has a slow, regular rhythm arranged in or constituting a constant or definite pattern, especially with the same space between individual instances
Finally, if you have spent a few minutes reading this
My regretful acknowledgement of an offence or failure on my part in the event that you experience the emotion or sensation that this has been an act or instance of using or expending the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future, regarded as a whole, carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose
(Translation: My apologies if you feel this has been a waste of time)