Моля

So I haven’t posted in ages because somehow once school ends and I’m ostensibly less busy than I was before, I stop doing things like writing and reflecting and thinking in general and just become a hedonistic zombie. I also feel that I’ve been ragging on Bulgaria a bit lately, and now that I’m back in the U.S. for a few weeks and have the benefit of a little distance, a mutual language, self-service options, patched roadways, level sidewalks, functional appliances, and drip coffee, I should indulge in some of the things I like about Bulgaria. The title of this post is one of them.

It’s a simple four-letter word (or five in English spelling – molya) but it’s something that is missing or has disappeared from English that I think we need back. Sort of like the polite “you” form. (At one point in my life I was interested in linguistic anthropology and this question of whether having existing forms and words in a language corresponds to the presence of certain characteristics in that society…I don’t know what the official linguistic answer to this is, but I swear that European kids are more polite to adults because they have to address them in a different way. Although they still do the European funnel mob thing at Onda and then become European adults who cut you in passport control at the airport because they simply don’t see/acknowledge/believe in lines, and you have to start throwing elbows to keep your place in the queue, GRRR. Oops, this was supposed to be a positive post.)

Моля means:

  • Please
  • You’re welcome
  • Sure thing
  • No problem / don’t worry about it
  • Pardon? / What? / HUH?

and any number of slight variations thereof. It is similar in usage to prego in Italian, but funner/harder to say, and it is usually accompanied by a Bulgarian head bobble, which also makes it funner/harder to pull off.

We need an equivalently simple but all-purpose word like this in English. There are times when “you’re welcome” is too formal of a response to someone’s “thanks for shifting aside to let me grab the Cheese Wiz,” for example. “Mmhmm” sounds kind of rudely dismissive, and if you think about it, “yup” is a weird response as well (“Yes – you should thank me!”). Моля is the perfect middle ground. It’s more like, “I heard you thank me, and I acknowledge your thanks.” And that’s in addition to all of its other uses in questions, requests, and muddled, fumbling conversations in Bulgarian (though this does lead to the problem of the Bulgarian not understanding, if you know to say “моля” when you don’t understand something, how you don’t understand the original comment in the first place – sort of like what happens when I tell Bulgarians, in Bulgarian, “I don’t understand you because I don’t speak Bulgarian”).

So I’ve taken to adopting моля for use in English. We’ll see how this plays out. Should be an easier sell than the head bobble, anyway.

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