Friday, May 31, 2013

I Know That You Know What I Meant - I Think

Photo by
Not too long ago one of my Facebook friends posted an article that struck my fancy and I immediately had to share it. The article is 38 Wonderful Foreign Words. It is a list of wonderful words that foreign languages have that we lack in English. Not to disparage the first 36 words but by far my favorite are the last 2 on the list. These are 2 Yiddish words - schlemiel and schlimazel. (Yes, we all know the song.) Basically a schlemiel is someone who spills his coffee and a schlimazel is the person on whom it is spilled. In my case, I am both as I will spill my coffee (and everything else) on myself.

Aside from the humor of these words, I like the interconnection of them. You can be a schlemiel by your actions. You do the spilling. But in order to be a schlimazel, that requires the action of someone else. They do it to you. I also like that either of these conditions can be permanent - he's always been clumsy, or bad things just seem to happen to him all the time. They can also be temporary like having a bad day.

Sam Kinison
Which brings me to hinting. (What?) My husband is not good at picking up on hints. This is good because I'm not good at making them. We solved our gift-giving problem by creating "I'd like something on this list" lists. It works for us. We're happy. I am a strong believer that if you have something to say, just say it.

Actually, I started thinking about 2 connected words we have in English - imply and infer. See, if I hint at something - "I'm sure tired of cooking dinner and cleaning up" - I'm implying that I'd like to go out to dinner. What has to happen next is the person I'm talking to has to infer my meaning. See to imply is an action and to infer is the result of an implication.

It's certainly frustrating to imply something and not have it inferred correctly (or at all).

          "That looks like a good movie."
          "I guess so."

Where we start to go wrong (and down the paranoid road) is when we start to infer meaning when there was nothing implied.

          "What a beautiful day."
          "What you're really saying is that we don't go out enough."

Perhaps this is where PC speech comes from. We try too hard to not say something so instead we contort our language into implication and innuendo hoping that our meaning will magically be inferred correctly. Or people so used to speech having a double meaning or sub-text that they automatically start to infer meaning where there was none other than what was stated. If you know what I mean. What do you mean?

No comments:

Post a Comment