Tag Archives: language

Understand? Comprenez? Capice? Entiendo?

Communication is vital for life.  An obvious statement, I know.  But when you think about it, communication, more importantly effective communication, is something we often take for granted. The majority of us learn to talk and communicate at an early age.  We know how to say what we want, identify things we like, show disdain for things we don’t like.  It seems so simple when you think about it but really, it’s so much more than that.  It allows us to be who we are.  It gives us an identity. It is how we want people to perceive us – by the thoughts and ideas we communicate with each other.

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In college, when I went back for round two, I majored in English (big surprise there) with a concentration in Writing, Communication, and Rhetoric.  I loved words, I loved writing.  It made sense that I would gravitate toward that concentration.  However, while there were some classes that really just were going through the motions (sorry – but Business Communications and Technical Writing were almost the same class – at least Tech Writing started off that way and it was probably because of the professor who taught it…), there were other classes that really examined language and how it’s used and how to effectively communicate with the masses.

In those classes, finding a voice was imperative. Without a voice, how could you communicate?  My Advanced Writing class, which was really my one true Rhetoric class, was where we learned to write effective persuasive essays, straw man essays, and Aristotelian arguments using Logos and Pathos.  It was by far one of my most favorite classes ever.  Combine that with a professor who was one to say “I never give anyone an A,” and I was set to take that class and make it my life’s mission to get that ‘A’ he never gave.

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That class was so interesting in the sense that in order to have an effective argument, it was important that you were very clear in what you were saying so there could be no misunderstanding.  It taught me to get to the point and support the point clearly.  It taught me to use one word rather than ten to get there.  I could dig it up, but probably my most favorite argument was the one where I argued that Seinfeld was the greatest sitcom ever created.  I don’t remember the exact reasons I gave, but I remember getting an A on that paper and in the end I got an A for the semester (which also gave me a sense of pride because it was awarded by a self-proclaimed “I never give As” professor).

Had I not learned how to effectively communicate and make sure that I was understood, I doubt my arguments would have been as strong as they were.  I took a lot from that class because many of the lessons applied to every aspect of life. In order to have any relationship in life, you must effectively and clearly communicate and be understood.  If you can clearly communicate, then you can be understood.  Being able to be understood means that people are able to know me. They can understand my opinions and if they are able to communicate back, I can understand theirs.

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Today, I have heard a lot of people say things like “Our country is pregnant with change,” or “We are living in a very historical time” and at the same time, we hear the candidates gearing up for Presidential campaigns. Everything is so politically charged and at times, it’s overwhelming.  I can’t help but think that if people knew how to effectively communicate and have a discussion – not digging your heels in and shouting at each other trying to drown the other opinion out but a genuine conversation – we might better understand our friends and neighbors who hold a different opinion.  We would understand what was being said.  That’s the beauty of humanity.  We have the ability to communicate and through that communication we are able to be understood.  It really is an amazing thing to be understood.

This blog is part of my month long attempt (number fiftefoursixthteenth or something around that) at participating in NaBloPoMo.  Check out other great bloggers who are working on hitting this 31 days of blogging goal and join in yourself if you want!  The more the merrier!  This month’s theme: Connect.  Today’s Prompt: Do people generally understand what you’re trying to say?

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Did She Really Know He Was Trouble When He Walked In?

My four-year old loves to sing.  She’ll sing anything.  She made up a great song this past Memorial Day, a new family classic.  “It’s Memorial Day.  It’s Memorial Day.  Everyone shout hooray, hooray!”  It went on for about four verses and I was lucky enough to capture it on video.  I also have her on video singing along to “Call Me Maybe.”  Not my proudest moment but she begged to have a video of it.

I sometimes worry about the songs I let her listen to on the radio and after reading this article on the Huffington Post, I’m glad to see I’m not alone in my worry.

I know that I can’t keep her in a bubble but I want her to be a little girl as long as humanly possible.  I know right now, she’s just innocently singing along to Taylor Swift but I still cringe hearing that innocent voice singing those lyrics.

Parrothead-20My Mom is a Parrot head (aka a die-hard Jimmy Buffett fan).  We were raised on Jimmy Buffett music, long before the masses were singing Margaritaville and reminding us all that it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.  The staple in her car during our childhood was the greatest hits album, Songs You Know By Heart, aka the yellow case.  Almost everyone who knows Jimmy Buffett knows this album.  It’s got them all.  Mother, Mother Ocean. A Pirate Looks at 40.  Cheeseburger in Paradise.  Boat Drinks.  And then there’s the song that was always fast forwarded.  The one that Jimmy Buffett once called the New Bedford national anthem (it got a lot of laughs from the crowd at that concert).  The one that as a kid all I remember was the part about a water bed.   Now that I’m an adult, I realize that she was trying to make sure our innocent little minds didn’t come up with questions she didn’t want to answer.  I can only imagine how that conversation would have gone…

Us Kids: “Mommy, What’s ‘get drunk’ mean?”

Mom: “It means drinking a lot.”

Us Kids: “Oh, like too much kool aid?”

Mom:  “Yes. Exactly.”

A moment of silence and then the chorus comes back on “Why don’t we get drunk and screw?”

Us Kids: “So does screw mean go to the bathroom?  If he drank a lot of kool aid, he would have to pee.”

Mom:  “Yes.  That’s exactly what that means.”

Because of that glorious little fast forward button, that cassette tape hardly ever played that song.  We never had a chance to really ask that question.  Even if we had asked the question, I wonder if we would have understood the answer.

The scary thing for me is that the radio plays much more intense things now.  That would have been considered mild today.  Would have and is… It’s not just the radio though.  As the article points out, it’s tv too.  There’s so much that is said and it’s as if we forget that the English language is fortunate enough to have THOUSANDS of words to describe so many different things.  But pop culture seems to dictate speaking in text talk, hash tags, and with a profanity laced dialogue (or monologue depending on the person) that once upon a time would have made a sailor blush.

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Even today, when we were driving home, Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” came on and she was soon singing along in the back seat “We’re up all night to get lucky.”  Either I have a dirty mind or she’s singing something she has no idea about.  I felt like a prude.  The song has an awesome beat and you can’t help but want to dance to it, no matter where you are.  I like it.  It’s on almost every radio station every ten minutes or so.  You can’t avoid it.   What does that mean as a mom?  Do I resort to censorship until she’s old enough to have a better understanding even though the very thought of censorship makes me feel a little nauseated?  Do I put her at a disadvantage, even at 4, because trust me, the kids know what is cool at 4.  Or do I just go along and pretend like it’s nothing until she asks?

It’s such an odd question to have to deal with. I will not worry too much about it right now but I will turn off the more “suggestive” songs (read “Blurred Lines”) even if I want to listen.  I’ll blast them when I’m driving to and from work.   In the mean time, I will continue to play the Beatles, big bands, and folk music mixed in with the occasional top 40 radio station that incessantly plays the same five songs over and over and over and over and over and over…

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Filed under Culture, Tales of Parenthood