Did you ever realize what a poor excuse for communications we have? Most of our means of expressing ourselves is based to some degree on language. Yes, I know that there are studies that show that “body language” carries the majority of the meaning in a conversation, but without a spoken language, there would be no conversation. A written language is usually just a less temporary version of the spoken language. Body language without the sounds is just charades.
To communicate, one of us generates a thought in his or her mind. We then try to formulate that thought into a word or series of words. Once we select the words, we then have to transfer them, usually by voice or by writing, and then trust that the intended recipient will be able to reassemble some version of our thought from those words. Sometimes we succeed; sometimes we get close; at other times we struggle and say something like, “You know the thing over there that does that thing, you know?”
Some people are content to launch their words without worrying about whether they reach the intended target or generate the appropriate thought patterns. It might be an ego thing. It’s sufficient that they said it; understanding it is your responsibility. If you don’t understand then obviously you’re the one who’s deficient.
To make it more complicated, the old bell shaped curve of normal distribution is in effect. In the middle are a lot of people just trying to communicate. “Hello.” “Pass the salt.” “I didn’t mean that it makes you look fat, dear!”
At one extreme are those who fancy their particular station in life as so special that it requires a special language. Now when explaining quantum physics, this may be necessary because theoretical concepts may not have a comparison in the real world (I don’t understand quantum physics, so I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.) However, computer geeks and medical types are particularly adept at this. Is there really a major benefit to calling it borborygmi? Most people call it “stomach growling” and we all know what they’re talking about; if the purpose is to communicate, creating one’s own jargon may not be advantageous to the species as a whole.
However, just in case it is beneficial, I hereby declare a new word:
Fleb (verb): To create a word unique to practitioners of a particular activity or interest that is not meant to be easily understood by those not so engaged.
Now that I’ve got my flebbing out of the way, let me comment on the other extreme (remember the bell shaped normal distribution earlier? Good.) The people at the other extreme have appointed themselves as guardians of the language. They have taken it as their to correct everyone else’s usage. Unfortunately as a society evolves, the language is going to evolve with it; new words are necessary and some styles (such as saying, “I shall – you will”) that offer no real benefit are abandoned. (Note to the grammar police: It’s no longer the King’s English.)
It’s the thoughts that we are trying to share that are important. Sharing good thoughts or funny thoughts or caring thoughts is what being a human is all about. Too bad we have to rely on language to do it.
Copyright 2011 SF Nowak – All Rights Reserved