On communication, people who know me would not believe the title statement. I am the quintessential “communicator.” I talk too much, sometimes. Wherever I go I meet people. My lifetime admonition to my daughter has been, “speak up, speak clearly and have a full vocabulary.” Communicate!
I am talking about all those extra words we all use. This has been rolling around in my head for sometime. Only recently did I get some clarity. A few months ago we were in France and Italy. While most there speak some English, if you go off the path a little, there are those who do not.
So what do you do? Say there is a person who has food for sale. And there is another person, me, who is hungry and has Euros. It is amazing how the two things get together when there is a common goal. First of all, both put on their best face. I mean smiles galore, all gestures are positive, with many shoulder movements that indicate, “I am sorry, please forgive me,” and so on.
There is a pureness in communication with someone who does not speak your language, nor you his.
When we speak English in our usual environment we often use too many words. Many times these extra words in our communication lift, and other times diminish.
We are always jockeying for position, negotiating in our daily lives. Even something little, like your wanting to play golf next Saturday. Notice the extra words you use to the wife, or the other way around, women play golf too, to get that permission. If not exactly permission, we need the tacit approval to keep a pleasant calm life. There’s a “wonderful” here, a “great” there and “the best” in between.
Then there are words that diminish. Those words that tear down. I get a lot of favorable comments on my weekly missive. Of course, if I am doing my job, I also get the other side, which I like. Once someone local said to me “Are you still writing your little articles for the paper?”
That was not a constructive comment disagreeing on one of my stands. It was a complete “tear down” exercise. “Still” and “little” are words that diminish. This person knew very well I write weekly.
How about visiting that aunt you just don’t like, and your child drops a candy bar on the floor? You might say, “Pick that up off the dirty floor.” Frank Sinatra’s Dingus McGee not withstanding, you know what you meant.
In fact, the dictionary says of these words, “To make little or less in a moral sense; to speak of in a depreciatory or contemptuous way.”
I remember Stephen King saying during an interview that words diminish themselves by not being as important out in the air as in your head. That they shrink when they see the light of day. Paraphrasing somewhat.
However, when it’s all said and done, if you were to put the words that uplift on one end of a seesaw and words that tear down on the other, the uplifting words would be heavier. And, that’s good.
Personally, I do not particularly like George Orwell, (1903 - 1950.) I have tried to read “1984,” but just can’t get through it. However, he did say this on language; “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink”.
I would like to see George order a pizza in Riomaggiore, Italy. His “little” books would not fill his stomach.