Tempus forgets

Oh boy…. I’ve just noticed the date.

What happened to the past few months? I mean, I know what I’ve been up to. At least, I think I do… Does anybody else do this thing where they intend to do something, and they keep telling themselves that they need to do it, and they tell themselves so frequently that they end up actually thinking they’ve done it?

And… they haven’t.

Well, that’s me.

I heard an interesting thing the other day. It’s to do with forgetting stuff…

Apparently if you walk from one room into another with the purpose of doing something, the very act of walking through the doorway draws a line under that thought. It wipes out the thought that you were bringing in with you.

Me: I will leave the living room and go to the kitchen to fetch a sandwich bag to put this assorted batch of pencils in.

My brain: And she’s left the living room! She made it into the kitchen without any injury. Good job, brain cells! Shut off any living room-based thoughts. Bin them. Let’s make space for incoming! Now let’s move onto all things related to ‘kitchen’!

Me: What the heck did I come in here for?

I once did a study of facial recognition/memory. And I found out something fascinating. Did you know your brain has a little database of useless information about each person you know? Well, chief amongst these is the location you usually see that person. In fact, it’s one of the first pieces  of information your brain scrabbles for. So…

Me: I know that person…

My brain: Hang on!  I’ll just check. (checks through a veritable Where’s Wally/Waldo of snapshots). Nope. I got nothing. Gahhh!

The other person then sees the stupid look of blank horror on your face and basically tells you their life story until you twig (usually at the point when they mention the actual place you know them from) who they are.

My brain: The library?! Omigosh! Of course! (grabs the picture of the library and does a lap of honour to the internal strains of the Hallelujah Chorus).

But, as I always say – it’s better to remember that you’ve forgotten than to forget that you’ve remembered…

 

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Unscrambling eggs

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?

For example:

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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Rising to the bait

Sorry I’m a bit late with this – blame the snot-fest.

I’ve been puzzling about linguistics recently…

Why do we ‘rise’ to the bait, but ‘lower ourselves’ to dignify a wind-up with a response? Where on earth is this insult pitched? No wonder we go through life seesawing between backhanded compliments and verbal confusions! Would world peace be achieved if we all spoke the same language? Never. You’d have to have a hive mind mentality set up before that happened. One mind, one meaning. To illustrate:

I hate crowds – too many thoughts rushing around. You see, another of my little  gifts is that I’m an empath. I’m not telepathic (or, as I jokingly call it – ‘telepathetic’), although I can pretty much gauge what a person is thinking based on things like facial expression and body language. No. An empath is something different. It’s not an observational thing, but the ability to know what someone else is feeling; or even to experience that feeling alongside them. The amount of times I’ve been having a great day and suddenly felt weird for no reason, before finding out that someone in the building is having the day from hell.

In fact, at one job I was at, I was warned to stay clear of the staff room because there’d been an argument in there half an hour previously…

So, anyway. Crowds equal bad news for me because I get exhausted by the maelstrom of emotions whirling around every corner.

Now a football match – that’s another thing altogether. I can happily, even peacefully sit and be perfectly relaxed. You see, there may be thousands of people there but they all share pretty much the same thought… Win. Win. Win. Generally, folks don’t go to a match to spend ninety minutes wondering if they turned the cooker off, or if the combats they’re wearing really do go with their t-shirt. And even if they did, chances are those thoughts/emotions would be swallowed up by the Win-win-winners.

Even speaking the same language causes misunderstandings… Take Mrs Malaprop, for instance – a humorous character whose verbal manglings gave rise to a whole brand of spoken shenanigans… An example:  “Illiterate him quite from your memory” (obliterate).

And yes, ok, I’ve made a few of my own, in various languages… I’ll give you a few examples, as long as you please remember that I’m not a one for bad language, it’s just the way some of them came out…

When I was about 4, I went with my sister to see one of her friends, who delighted in playing silly games with me. One day, she was playing “I’m The King Of The Castle” with me, which goes like this:

I’m The King Of The Castle

And you’re the dirty rascals.

Only, of course what came out of my mouth wasn’t ‘rascals’, and it began with ‘b’… My sister’s friend was somewhat taken aback. And no, I don’t know where I’d picked that word up from. Sometimes I don’t think I even do pick up words. I think I just mangle them until they sound like another word. Case in point… Once I was talking to Mother about a friend and called them a ‘rech mewn pot jam’ which, in Welsh means a ‘fart in a jam pot’. Only I didn’t use the word ‘rech’, I used a very similar sounding word which, unfortunately means, er… How do I put this… front bottom. Cue cranial bongo solo from Mother…

And here’s one I heard earlier.

I was in a supermarket the other day when I overheard a mother with her son and another boy who was clearly friend of son. They were choosing drinks before going into the nearby cinema. The boy got very excited at the range of drinks available and pointed one particular bottle out to his friend, asking him “Have you ever tried that drink? That ‘Knackered’ one?’ She cringed and corrected him – very promptly.

I don’t know what the mother was more embarrassed about: her son’s reading ability; whether he’d just used the word ‘knackered’, or the fact that she’d had to say ‘Naked’ very loudly in a public place!

Language is a funny old thing…


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