A while ago Jillian was telling me about a girl in her primary school when she was quite young. They had a reading class; she remembers they were sitting outside so it was a nice day, and this girl, Janice was her name, had trouble reading one particular word. It was very early in Jillian's reading journey. They were doing the usual books with the family stories that all kids could identify with (possibly not quite the same nowadays. just sayin').
Anyway, the family - in the book - were all together in the morning before dad went off to work and the older kid went to school and mum did the housework. They were having BREAKFAST. Janice kept reading that word as "breakfast fast". Jillian laughed at the memory. I thought about the stereotypes that this scene was forcing upon our kids at that time in our history.
But. It started me thinking about all the words that have different meanings now from when we were young. The words that have been made up over the last 40 or more years to cover situations that just didn't exist before.
(Here’s a challenge for you, my reader. Can you each come up with 3 words that have vastly different meanings now, from when they were first introduced into the English language? ‘Gay’ for example.
Also think about regional and country variations. Could be a fun exercise.)
The way we get words wrong that we read or stuff we say everyday intrigues me also. (Everythink, somethink are two Jillian still says, that come to mind straight away.) Actually that is quite funny really. A woman who is worried about the letter her name starts with but who hasn't managed to get her head/voice around the pronunciation of a couple of everyday words. Whatever!!
Someone's reading this over my shoulder as I am writing and saying to me. "Where's this going? What are you trying to say?"
"I'm not sure," I reply. But I keep going.
I think I'm just getting older, looking at the changes that have occurred around us, and wondering how we all managed to survive.
If we could all look at our lives in a time lapse video I think we would be VERY surprised. Patterns.
Some of our early childhood beliefs are still with us albeit in slightly different manifestations, some have morphed such that they are unrecognizable and some have only recently developed. If only we could go back and watch that happening. Our current mind-sets have been forged in the fires of our life experience.
But it all comes back to language. To words. What we say. What we mean. What we don't really mean, but say anyway. What we think and don't say. What we understand about what others say to us or about us.
We mostly think in words. The way our tiny computer-like brains manage the words we see on the page, the screen, or we hear from the incessant chatter of those around us, or the electronic media, is the basis for everything in our lives.
So we need to be careful we are reading things correctly, listening and understanding, not making assumptions or brain jumps like Janice. Sometimes we need to listen to, or read what is NOT being said as well, but at that same time not making stuff mean something it doesn't. Sounds tough. We may not always have a teacher like Janice did to help us.
"Bloody hell," says the voice over my shoulder. "How wanky is all that?"
"Suck it up!" I say.
See what I mean? Words!