Function and Meaning (Continued)

Like many places in Slovakia, Nitra has its share of ‘public art,’ expressed in all the advertisements, instructions, graffiti, and ubiquitous tagging of buildings, trains, bridges, fences, in short, anything that represents a potential canvas, something that can be seen by the random passers-by. So I wasn’t so surprised when a sidewalk in our fine city’s Stare Mesto neighborhood greeted me last week with the banner “Milujem ťa.” Of course, its full meaning is as inscrutable to me as the tags surrounding me as I walk through any underpass.

I look closely at the brownish paint—or is it dried blood—rather boldly spread out in front of my feet under the broad afternoon babie leto sunshine. Sidewalks rarely communicate so engagingly. A pleasant collection of lexical content and functional instructions which I can unpack as follows:

“Milujem t’a,” that is to say: ‘I have a certain feeling for you, an awareness amounting to approval, appreciation, and approbation, something stronger than mere liking, more kindred in intensity to hate, yet with positive polarity.’

Let’s investigate: there’s “t’a” . . . the single solitary walker, reader, familiar to the writer, or so the writer indicates, functioning as object of the writer’s love? Could it be me? If not, then who?

Continuing to decode, next there’s “-ujem” . . . . the single, solitary writer, agent, lover? Functioning as the speaker subject of the expression. Definitions so far are hard to come by: I’m left with the circularity of “I” and “you,” but I don’t know who.

But, aah, there’s that first part: “Mil-” from “milovat’” the content laden ‘love’ with all its entailments and entanglements. With ‘Mil’ we know that the speaker is human, has feelings, and knows what it is like to experience these feelings deeply, their presence and absence. “Mil-“ concept or atom, that which is composed of basic parts, or that which stands on its own, yet is connected with so much else? . . . such are the questions that run through the linguist’s mind . . .