I Am Going To Kill . . .

 

Now that sounds like a mighty provocative statement don’t you think? But what does it mean? Am I going to end someone’s existence? Murder? Or am I going to end the existence of that hamburger on that plate?

Context. It’s all about context. And quite frankly ‘Kill’ could mean any number of things: ruin something, overpower, block, hurt, make time pass, laugh . . . . the list is pretty extensive. Confused yet?

I speak one language well (well, pretty well) and I will acknowledge it is a rather confusing language. “Stay where you’re at, and I’ll come where you’re to”. Drive on a parkway and park on a driveway. To anyone to whom English is a second language: Kudos! Even some of us born to it have issues.

I am finding more and more that it is not how well I speak that is important, it is how well I am understood. And the onus is not on the person to whom I am speaking, rather it is on me. I love words. I have a university degree in English. I often use words that are multiple syllables long and sometimes archaic. To my ear I am speaking appropriately. Unfortunately it is not my ear that I am speaking to. I was in a grocery store the other day and looking for a particular item. I was looking for aubergines. For the life of me I could not remember it’s common name. When I asked I was told that they didn’t sell exotic items. I was looking for eggplants.

I love the fact that I live in a multicultural nation. I love the fact that people from all over the world choose to come to my beautiful country. I believe we are stronger for that. But it also presents difficulties that I’m quite sure 30 years ago we never thought about: everyday conversations. And then of course you have the generation that speaks in symbols, short forms and acronyms. The flavour of the word is lost when you LOL. The first person that ever used that acronym for me was a dear, dear friend. I thought it meant Lots of Love. You can imagine my chagrin when an acquaintance used it. Context my friends, context.

There is a marvellous scene in an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation where one character holds up a hot cup of tea and asks another how he would explain what she is holding in her hand, to an alien race. For those of you in the know it was counsellor Troy and Capt. Picard. Was she holding hot, liquid, glass, cup of tea, beverage? And if the alien race had no concept of drinking a cup of tea how do you explain it to them? And that is our problem here in present-day Earth. Context.

All over the world things are done differently in different countries. They refer to things by different names. When we come together there’s a great deal of miscommunication. Our job is to keep trying to communicate until we’re all on the same page. When I write that down it seems like such an easy thing to do. And yet you know as well as I do easy is harder then it looks. We will never, ever fail as long as we keep trying. I’ll keep trying and I’ll stop looking for aubergines!

17 thoughts on “I Am Going To Kill . . .

  1. scifihammy

    Great post! 🙂
    Like you, I tend to think and speak with interesting, many-syllabled words, but when I speak in the local shops, eg, I have to remember to say “egg plants” and not “aubergines” too! As there are 11 official languages here in SA, “English” as it is spoken can be highly entertaining. 🙂 (The problem with many African languages when speaking English is placing the emphasis on the wrong syllable. )

    Liked by 1 person

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  2. Dan Antion

    “…the onus is not on the person to whom I am speaking, rather it is on me.”

    That’s so important, Pam. I made a simple misjudgment in my guest post for Linda Hill, that caused a number of people to misunderstand the rules for bonus points. It’s a silly thing, but I wish I had corrected it.

    After that experience, and this thoughtful post, maybe I’ll be more careful.

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. Sunshine Jansen

    I know I walk a tightrope when I write, between using words that I love (and that are often obscure) and alienating the people to whom I’m trying to tell a story. It’s satisfying to strike the right balance, but I do lament the lost words…

    And Star Trek TNG had so many great episodes about communication didn’t it? My favorite was always the one (I think it was called “Darmok”) with the aliens that only spoke in allusions.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. quiall Post author

      oooh that was a great one! Made me cry. You are right, balance in our communication is the key. I don’t want to talk down to people but I also don’t want to appear elitist.

      Liked by 1 person

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  4. dweezer19

    Silly me. I am aware of aubergine, as a painter and mother of four. It was one of the first ‘exotic’ colors in my pencil collection. I just never considered calling an actual eggplant by that name. You are somright about words, even common items. When we lived in Costa Rica we discovered when it came to common birds and fruits there were not simply Spanish translations but actual different names for many of these things. Language. Communication. Perhaps grunts were better. 😏🤔

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. John W. Howell

    A thoughtful discussion, Pam. I guess we writers constantly struggle to communicate. I does become harder when a new generation of readers have a different view of language. The first LOL I receive was from a dancer. I thought she meant “Lots of Leg.”

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. Hatem Kaldas

    Nice post.
    Oh dear, if you think English is a confusing language then I have to let you know that, compared to the Arabic language, it is as simple as learning to count from one to ten.
    You would do number of PhD’s in the Arabic language and you would only be scratching the surface. Few really understand the proper Arabic language and even fewer speak it if any. Many will even be put off reading it. To add to the confusion, people in different Arabic speaking regions use completely distorted versions of the language that are ambiguous to outsiders.

    I believe communicating in any language is a result of the complex mix between culture, language and time. Communicating in Arabic is the extreme example of this mix.

    Liked by 2 people

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