Who uses it: Anthropologists and linguists
What it means: Latin, "the language of the Franks;" any third language that two people who do not speak each other's language can use to communicate. English has become the lingua franca of business in most of the world; the Wall Street Journal ran a great article several years ago about the English spoken in a Japanese-owned factory in Eastern Europe.
How you can use it: As a metaphor for any common ground. "My eyes glazed over when he talked about work, but the new television season provided a kind of lingua franca."
Strange I should use that example, actually, because while I'm aware that the new television season is starting, I seem to have stopped watching network TV. At home, I watch nothing but the news and the movie channels; when I'm traveling, I've all but stopped turning the television on. I don't know whether this is self-preservation from over-stimulation, or some deeper manifestation of growing eccentricity. Both, probably, as those two things must be related.
I'm in Albany today, looking forward to spending the day in the newspaper archives of the New York State Library. Dizzy was not thrilled to leave the Kinsolvings' yesterday, but he's a good sport about all the traveling. The one drawback of traveling with a dog is that he can't navigate; the good side is that he never asks, "Are we lost?" or "Are you sure this is the right way?"
Because I often get lost, and I did get lost -- a little -- yesterday. I'm resigned to it, it's my nature, and I've decided that it's even part of my process, on a cosmic scale. If you know exactly how to get from A to B, you never really notice anything in between. You learn a lot more if you let yourself get lost once in a while.
It's that kind of attitude, of course, that turns a four-hour library visit into an eight-hour one. I need to be a little more disciplined about that today, since Dizzy will be alone at the Econo-Lodge. He doesn't watch network TV, either; I leave "Animal Planet" on for him. Don't tease me about this.