I have been reading various newspaper articles and reading various blog posts and tweets which have led me to a rather startling conclusion (as well as putting this song on a loop in my brain www.youtube.com/watch).
The conclusion I have come to is as follows - we don't listen enough and we refuse to actually "hear" what is being said half of the time (both verbally and non-verbally). Yes - yes - I know! I probably chose the wrong word but it goes with body "language" and you cannot hear a body speak unless they talk!!!
Some of this can be a result of us finding it difficult to understand what other people are actually trying to tell us (maybe due to them having a strong or unusual accent, or not being a native speaker of the language we are speaking in, or even them resorting to the language they use all the time - Acronyms, slang, or technical words with no apparent translation in the "real world" we live in - and not bothering to translate for us).
I can remember one news report where a Dutch man was being interviewed about something or other on the BBC a few years ago - it was one of those news reports where you hear the first sentence spoken by the person being interviewed and then the voiceover kicks in with the English translation (you have no idea how much I hate those things - but I think you are about to find out exactly how much I hate it along with my reasons for preferring subtitles).
I cannot remember what the man was being interviewed about but I can definitely remember thinking that the voiceover translation had mistranslated a critical word which I heard before the voiceover kicked in. So what my brain was "hearing" (the bits of Dutch which were not being drowned out by the voiceover) was totally different to what my ears were hearing (the voiceover with the English "Translation"). I ended up being totally confused.
Those of you who read the original version of "Inkyworld" may remember that I wrote a blog post along a similar theme after reading a blog post where Constable Chaos decided to cause a Diplomatic Incident. This was as a result of him (or A.N.Other) running a tweet in Dutch through Google Translate and broadcasting the results wihout running the "translation" through a human who could actually understand the context of one important word. Constable Chaos was ready to arrest the Dutch Judoka who had sent it for Assault (the "translation" provided indicated that she admitted to beating someone up) and typed a blog post stating that fact - listing at least one law which she had apparently "broken". He was, therefore, a little confused when I told him he had got it completely wrong and all the Judoka had actually admitted to was hitting someone who had thrown a bottle on the track just before a final at the London Olympics.
But it is not just when translating between the languages of different countries that you have to be careful about things like contexts of words. It can also be tricky when you are talking to someone who uses words which are either totally unfamiliar or which you know in a completely different context.
I will give you two examples of what I mean (from words which I have been known to use in everyday speech).
Unless you are from Leicester or Leicestershire I very much doubt you would understand what I meant if I asked you for a "croggy"??? It is when you give someone a lift on either the handlebars or (usually) the back of your bicycle.
Now - here's a puzzle for you;
What do you think I would mean if I said the following to you -
"We can either go round the cob shop and get a ham salad cob or we could go round the chippy and get a chip cob!"???
If you are not a native English speaker I think you would look at that and immediately give up - After all, who in their right mind would walk around a shop and expect to buy anything without going in it???
The observant among you may have realised I am offering you a choice which involves a shop and "ham salad" or possibly "chips" (the exact nature of the "chips" in question could be either what I know as crisps or what an American would know as fries).
If I were to write it out slightly more formally I would say we could "go round to" both the "cob shop" and the "chippy".
(In this case the word "chippy" refers to a fish and chip shop. Just to confuse non-native English speakers further - "chippy" can also be a slang name for a carpenter.)
To understand what I mean by a "cob" you need to throw your English dictionary or phrasebook out. They will tell you that a cob is a male bird of some sort. (If you find a book on the dialect of my native Norfolk you will find that "cob" means something completely different in that dialect as well.)
In this case the word "cob" was probably originally short for "Cobble" (as in the stones which some roads are built with) - which is a rather accurate description of the appearance (and texture) of a crusty bread roll. Leicestershire people have adopted the word "cob" to describe any bread roll (soft or crusty).
The filling of the bread roll (ham salad, chips, etc,) is always before the word "cob". A "chip cob" can be known as a "chip butty" in other parts of England. (My Glaswegian friend always confuses me when he tells me he has eaten a "roll and bacon" because that suggests to me that he has eaten the roll and the bacon separately.)
So - what on earth is a "cob shop"??? Simple - it is a shop which sells "cobs" - and "cobs" are bread rolls - you can buy those from a Baker's shop (or "bakery").
Put it all together in Standard English and you will find out that I have said the following;
"We can either go round to the baker's and buy a ham salad roll or we can go round to the fish and chip shop and buy a roll filled with chips!"
Back to the point.
I have read so many bits of writing which can be understood to mean two completely different things in English at the same time that I have lost count. (And that is before my "mental dictionaries" kick in and confuse me further - Please see other blog posts where I have rambled on about the confusions between English and Dutch.)
My least favourite way of speaking is what I call "Politics Speech" - you know the sort - they say the exact opposite of what they mean but you have to watch them very carefully before you realise it. Politicians (and anybody with a high opinion of themself) have a nasty habit of using this way of speaking.
The most recent example I saw of this was Theresa May when she was being interviewed on the news tonight about the Migrant crisis at Calais. She oozed fake concern for the migrants in the words she spoke. Her face - and the rest of her body language - suggested she wished they would all drown in the Mediterranean (and take the entire UK Police Service with them).
If we fail to take proper care when we speak to each other we might end up feeling like we were in the sketch in the video below;
(Sorry - I couldn't resist sharing that video with you. It is one of my favourite sketches by Jon Culshaw and I thought it summed up this blog post perfectly!!!)
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