THE WORD KITE
In Italian, it’s cervo volante, flying red deer. In French, flying stag.
In Germany, it’s the same word as dragon. In Japan, octopus.
The Spanish cometa suggests the stars, and fengzheng, in China,
is the wind’s stringed instrument. Kite for us is a predatory bird,
from the Old English cyta, for which “no related word appears
in the cognate languages,” though we know now that kites
were once used by virgins, midwives and surviving twin sisters
to hang their laundry up to dry.
Perhaps the Dutch wouw really means a kind of bird that blooms;
the Finnish tulppaanikonen is a tulip turning itself as wide
as possible, just before its wings fall off;
the Thai wan-we is comfort that the moon comes back;
and the Latin, miluus, a toy for the Festival of Rise Towards the Sky.
In Afrikaans voilvlieg must be the unlikelihood that a bird seen once
on a tree would ever return. In Esperanto, I believe milvo
may capture most concisely “an elevator that can be steered.”
More words are needed:
Kitarsis: the flying of a kite soaked in one’s bad luck and illness
until it disappears; the letting go of the string of such a kite.
Kitekin: a miniature kite flown at the fetes for conceptions of royal successors.
Pismo domine: a letter to a deceased relative, flown at the end of a string.
Requeste de l’aire: a marriage proposal made while flying a kite hung with small, colored candle lanterns; alternatively, a kite flown with the question,
“What is the nature of my future?”
But stop. Enough.
Word is to string,
page is to kite,
as snail is to butterfly.