Sunday, May 31, 2009

Babelfish Busted

Disconcerting to be found amongst a tribe and not understand the language. Even the most basic necessities become impossible to acquire as you are reduced to desperate pointing. It becomes even worse when the tribe in question is your family.

Earlier this week, traveling home from work, I rescued another box turtle from crossing the yellow lines of certain doom. He straddled the double yellow in the middle of the road, dancing a minuet to avoid onrushing cars. Snatching him up, he rode shotgun home to see the boys before releasing him into the wilds of our back yard.

Rushing to the car to get the first peek, even before I opened the door, they were already in search of a name. Mr. Shoe, in honor of the stuffed turtle? Spot, for the colorful orange Rorshact blots on his shell? Hissy, his first words as Logan lifted him out of the car? Cole proclaimed him...Datso! Datso?

I have long marveled at the language of my children. Our linguistic conundrum began with "solostate", of which I am still unsure of the exact definition. Logan and Cole, from their perch in the back seat, engaged in deeply intelligent conversations about "solostate", would grin and shake their heads at our idiocy when asked what was "solostate." Their delight mirrored our frustration as our very ability to communicate was lost in translation.

Whimper wipers, thermonitor, easy to decipher in their context. Possibly my children were replaced at birth by life forms from another planet, only the batteries on their universal translator are wearing down...just a theory.

Language, the ability to communicate, speaks either inclusion or division. Do we speak to be understood or to confuse? to bring together or to separate? to build ourselves up or to tear walls down? Intentionally or otherwise, the words we use carry crushing weight. How we use them determines our very character.

(...little yellow fish anyone?)

14 comments:

Ronda Laveen said...

Communication is truly a tricky business. There seems to be no lack of ways to misundertand even the most simple of statements.

The language your kids were making up brings back this memory. Years ago, one of my nephews was tattling on his older brother for smoking. He runs up to my sister and I and yells, "Jacob is out side smoking Motorolas!" "He's smoking TV's?," we ask. "No, MOTOROLAS! You know the cigarettes that cowboy smokes." To this day, our family refers to cigs as Motorolas.

Leah said...

I adored the neologisms of my daughter when she was a toddler. And sometimes I think she was deliberately obfuscating.

Ronda's comment is wonderful!

I like the parable, Brian.

Brian Miller said...

@ronda - that is an amazing story. lol. communication is a two way street. too many times we rely on the reciever just to "get it"

@leah - lol. my thoughts exactly. (groan)

Mrsupole said...

When I babysit the 5 year old granddaughter, I sometimes have trouble understanding what she is saying. She gets frustrated with me and if I am lucky I figure it out. Sometimes I never do. If her brothers or sister is here then they somehow know what she is saying.

That was a brave thing to save the turtle from it's demise. And I too think the boys do that to you both on purpose. Or maybe they are aliens, I did dream the other day that they were attacking us. I must be watching too much Sci-Fi.

God bless.

Brian Miller said...

@mrsu - why is it they understand each other so clearly? i'll be watching the skies and carrying my towel.

i once met a homeless man that spoke in gibberish. was it dementia or was it that he had something he could control in a society that had left him for dead? his fellow travelers had no trouble understanding him either...

willow said...

We still use some of the language our kids spoke. And some funny words we made up along the way. Outsiders give a strange look at some of the words. Every once in a while my daughter will use a word and get a "what?"
"Oh, my mom made up that word".

Daniel said...

Smile and wave boys, smile and wave. Какими языками ты владеешь?

Boubou said...

Bonjour ! first time i come across your blog, so im gonna visit it now :)
well if you wanna be inspired by my collages or just dream, come and visit my blog :)
a bientot !
Boubouteatime xx

The Things We Carried said...

I enjoy the words of children best! But, as an avid reader, I must admit, I am a "word" person. LOVE the last paragraph of this post. I think we all are found using language for all of the above at different times.

Brad said...

so true Brian, I am reading the five love languages for kids and really trying to make sure that the words I use with my kids (words of affirmation) are positive because they are so powerful.

Valerie said...

My son's favourite response to queries about what the heck he was talking about was ... you KNOW! I didn't know, ever, but was too ashamed to admit it! :~)

Brian Miller said...

@willow - ha. imagine i am in for a few of those as my kids get older. fun to play along

@valerie - there are days, i just nod and act like i know what they are saying. which is fine unless they are asking for something, then i am in a heap of trouble.

@brad - great book, especially in dealing with multiple kids b/c their love languages are so different. you can not treat them all the same.

@thingwecarry - love your blog. family stories. ty.

@boubou - will definitely check you out. thanks for stopping by!

@daniel - what he said...lol

Michael Rawluk said...

I sometimes use Bablefish and have this fear that it is translaing my comment to something very rude.

GTR said...
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