I said before that language is a funny old thing. I stand by that. It can help us, or it can hang us. For instance, take the time I got lost in Brittany… Down the docks. Not a good place for a teenager to get lost at the best of times! The whole idea was that we were in Brittany for a whole week to practice our French (of which I am a native speaker. Oh yes. Thought I’d drop that one on you. I’m a mongrel). Of course, you know how it goes… Everyone else uses you for English target practice. But not on this occasion. I was lost. The rest of the class had disappeared. The docks were otherwise deserted. Well, apart from the odd random group of old gentlemen.
So, hiding my native accent as best I could, I asked the gentlemen, group by group for help. No-one understood me (surely my own accent wasn’t that impenetrable?). So I tried English. The blank stares became blanker. Then something prompted me to try something completely illogical – speak Welsh to them (yes, native speaker… you get the idea). The reaction was instant. Within moments we’d swapped life stories, and they put me on track to re-join my class. You see, they were of a generation that never learned to speak French. Breton was their mother tongue. And Breton just happens to be very similar to Welsh.
Despite my young years, I had realised that they weren’t initially being rude, nor were they wary of some strange youngster pestering them. Nor did they think for a moment that I was being rude. They just didn’t have a clue what I was on about. And that can happen even when you do speak the same language. Beware! How many verbal wranglings have you ended up in for a similar reason?
I know. Me too.
However, you see, another one of my little gifts is that I’m a linguist. I can understand most languages, even ones I didn’t realise I did. Apparently this can be quite startling for anyone watching a subtitled film with me…
But languages aren’t just the obvious ones, you know. Anything that can be used to describe a set of events of experiences is a language.
And this is where I get topical. Science and religion. Why do people who speak sciencese and religionese not realise that they’re talking about the same things, but simply using different languages?
Place an ovulation from Gallus gallus domesticus in a thermally resistant receptacle and apply heat while producing agitative motions. Continue heat and agitation until there is a denaturing of the protein masses resulting in sufficient coagulation.
Enjoy your scrambled egg.
Okay, so a scrambled egg isn’t exactly a religious experience (depends on the recipe, though, I suppose), but hopefully my point is clear. Both are languages used to explain the universe, our existence, and all other matters in between.
I’ve been asked on a number of occasions how I can possibly be a scientist and a person of faith. Simple. There’s a third leg on this old milking stool called Life. Linguistics. That’s what makes those lightbulb moments happen.
Plus, I’m just really, really old and I can see how all this head-butting isn’t getting anyone anywhere. Just stop it, guys! Just acknowledge there are more languages in Heaven and Earth than dreamt of in your philosophy (sorry, Mister Shakespeare) or just agree to disagree, people. Play nicely.
You can’t untangle denatured protein chains….
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