Words Have Meaning (aka Maybe I Need a Thicker Skin?)

Posted: February 23, 2016 in Awake, Rocks in my path, Writing Wednesday
Tags: , , , , ,

words have weight

I’m a native English speaker. Who’s originally from an Island in the Caribbean so the English terms and dialect with which I am familiar stem from several areas – formally from a British school system for many  formative years, and informally from a mixed bag of Caribbean slang and terms with a heavy dose of influence from living for many years on the East Coast in the U.S. The accent? Well, it’s been described as a a crazy mixture of  several states within the U.S. and when I’m tired (or a little drunk), an accent from my homeland. All of this leads to why at times, language is this crazy barrier to my understanding of cliches, colloquialism, slang, etc. You see, it’s not that I don’t understand the words because I do. It’s because when certain words are strung together in a phrase that I don’t understand, my mind tries to pick them apart separately and then insert the meaning.  I can’t even begin to imagine what non-english speakers go through with the multiple translations in their heads and in their understanding when they move to the U.S.!

I also realize that while some people, even those who are close to me, confuse me and in turn, I am sure I confuse them! Even though we’ve communicated with each other for years and for hours on end, there’s almost always some confusion. Granted, at times I’m probably just decoding at a slower pace, like when I’m tired or not paying attention so I won’t blame that on language in general. That’s just me catching on and relaying slower than I should.

However, there are times when I really need a solid answer maybe akin to a “yes” or a “no” and when it comes in the form of a colloquialism or a cliche or worse yet, slang, I’m totally lost and sometimes, heartbroken. Thoughts race in sentences like, “I thought we were past this”, or “What did I do wrong?”, or “Maybe something has changed?”, and so on. Then there’s context but that’s a whole ‘nother topic for a whole ‘nother day.

Yes, I realise that not every sentence or statement or question is going to be cut and dry or consist only of plain language for all to understand as language itself is a beautiful beast that can be oh so subjective. But when it’s an important life decision, whether it be a binding agreement or contract, or a relationship related issue, I really need it to be clear cut and understandable. To do this, I try to repeat in the plainest english terms I can think of, what I believe is being said or conveyed. Not because I think the other person is slow or dumb. In fact it’s the opposite. I realise I’m being the ignorant one and so to avoid entering into a binding agreement or losing a loved one over something that wasn’t even an issue to begin with, I have to break down my barriers. The problem is that unless the person knows me somewhat well, they may sometimes think I’m being a condescending ass. So I try to remind that I’m not trying to be an ass, I’m just trying to ensure I understand and that I’m confused by a particular phrase, etc. Sometimes they get it, sometimes they may wonder how the hell we got along all these years, but hey, here we are…

Words have meaning and these meanings change as language changes. Confusing words and lack of grammar at times, can cause interesting and not so entertaining mishaps, heartache and alarm. So as I continue to learn and grow with language, slang, colloquialisms, etc., and I’ll continue to keep an open mind. Because, well, words mean something and sometimes, they mean nothing, and then at other times, they mean everything.

 

Simple Definition of colloquial

  • : used when people are speaking in an informal way

  • : using an informal style

Full Definition of colloquial

  1. 1:  of or relating to conversation :  conversational

  2. 2a :  used in or characteristic of familiar and informal conversation; also :  unacceptably informal b :  using conversational style

(Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

words have power

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