Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Anti-Language

Recently I've been thinking a lot about how I communicate because it really bothers me.  It's been a while since I started feeling bothered by that actually.  People used to understand me easily but since I went to Warwick I seem to have lost the ability to be clear and even though it's been a long time, it's never come back.  It might be down to the people with whom I communicate, but I think it's more than that.  Having said that, I remember a cartoon in the school newsletter which parodied the way I talked back then, and it was really quite similar, so maybe I've just imagined it.

Take what I wrote yesterday as an example.  Sarada got annoyed by it because she felt me writing words in Hebrew would make it harder to understand.  I know quite a few people who know a bit of Hebrew, but I understand what she's saying.  Sarada is very focussed on what she sees as me failing to come across clearly and tends to look at my writing in those terms more than any other.  This feels to me like she's ignoring the content, but of course she isn't.  What she is doing is ignoring the plain meaning of the writing.  Another issue we have with this is that we are the only two people talking about it at the time, so it could be folie à deux and we'd never know.  What I mean is, the two of us could both be wrong, or we could both be pulled into a habit of relating to each other which bears no relation to how other people see it.  She says this isn't so because she knows what other people are like, but to that I would say that knowing what other people are like would be magic, and nobody can really do that.  I used Hebrew because I liked its look, and also because in 'Unspeakable', the windows of the space ark spell out its name in the language.  I didn't share this with you then, so it's information I'm hoarding in a way, as is writing it in Hebrew, which is the first problem:  we can talk to hide what we know.

When we do hide what we know, we might be doing it for all sorts of reasons.  Sometimes we might be ashamed or guilty, or be afraid of being rejected by people.  Sometimes we might upset people if we said it.  Other times, we could be trying to dumb ourselves down, or maybe so much in the habit of doing that that we don't even notice it any more, because we're afraid of how we might be treated if people thought we were trying to be clever, or were actually being clever.  When we do all of those things, we are submitting to people.  The people listening to us have got the upper hand.  You might find this surprising, because I'm not very good at it probably, but I actually dumb myself down a lot.  When I say "I'm not very good at it", I don't mean I'm really smart.  What I mean is that I have so internalised my need to do the things I'm about to mention that I find it hard to step out of it, so you all get "clever-clever" Mands all the time even though I don't really want you to think of me like that.  I want you to think of me as nice and approachable.

Let's move on to the much nastier reason for doing things that way which I am afraid is my real reason.  I wrote a couple of Hebrew words in there because I like the way Hebrew looks, and I wanted to share that with you.  I'm ashamed that there's another reason and you just have to accept that I am trying really hard to stop doing this because I hate that I do it, but it is really difficult not to do it.  I do that kind of thing habitually because, and this is embarrassing, it's left over from what I think of as a masculine style of speech, the "mainsplaining" thing.  Mainsplaining has all sorts of stuff in it, but for me, one of the big things I do when I'm doing that is that I'm using words to hoard knowledge and keep it from you so you all end up thinking I'm better than you in some way.  I really wish I wouldn't do that, but the thing is, I've never been pretty, strong or good at anything else very much, so it's all I've got.  What you're seeing when I do this, surprisingly, is my inner child who wants your attention.

It's anti-language.  The words I use at you are not supposed to help you do anything, and I'm not trying to share anything with you because if I did, you'd be more powerful and I'd be weaker, because then you'd know what I know.  Also, look at what I've done here.  Someone got an apology card from me a few weeks ago where I said sorry for not helping her, but did I actually help her?  No, I just sent her an apology card instead, because that's what I do.  It's always all about me, and I don't want it to be, but somehow it always ends up that way and I'm sorry.  And there I go again, but I am trying to stop doing it, honestly.

When Lazarus Zamenhoff invented Esperanto, he wanted people all over the world to understand each other.  What actually happened was that if you really want to make sure nobody understands you, your best bet is to talk in Esperanto.  It's the ultimate anti-language.  Even so, when people use anti-language, they are really communicating.  It's just that they're not saying what they seem to be saying, whatever that is.  When we use English, we have a built-in way of hoarding information because our legendary class system is built into the language.  We have word-hoard and we have  vocabulary, which ironically contain the opposite of what they say.  The words we use to hoard information (equals knowledge (sometimes), equals power) are the ones from French and Latin, mainly.  If I compose a sentence with a plethora of pretentious verbiage in it, the probability of comprehension is minuscule, and that's because the posh people spoke French and it means the powerful people keep the power.  That's word-hoarding.  The words "word-hoard", funnily enough, are English and not French or Latin. When we don't hoard words, we often speak to each other using the older bits of English, that is, the bits which were already here before William came over the water, and when we do that, folk get what we're saying.

We do things with words.  When we say "fancy a cuppa?" we aren't just asking someone if they would like a cup of tea or even offering them a cup of tea.  We're trying to make them feel welcome.  When on the other hand someone says "do you like hospital food?", they probably aren't trying to make them feel welcome at all.  This is really obvious of course.

What I want to do is move from the way of using language which I despise myself for, that lot up there, to the other side - I want to talk to you "all" in a way which puts you at your ease, cheers you up and makes you feel listened to and cared about.  It might be that this side of things is the "pink" side, but that's not why I want to do it.  I want to be on that side because to me, and I know you may disagree with me but I'm trying to tell you why I'm doing this, I want to care and I want to be a good person.  I don't actually care about clever and funny at all.  I care about clever and funny if it helps, but I despise myself for my self-aggrandisement and pulling everyone else into my well.

I really hope that has come across to you.  I expect it hasn't though because I'm awful at that.  Now what am I doing there?

See?  I just can't do it.  FML eh?