My parents are from Glasgow. They immigrated to Canada when they were young adults, newly married in the 1970s. Growing up, friends would often say they could not understand what my Dad was saying because of his strong accent. I didn’t get what they were talking about. I didn’t hear the accents. Something I did understand about how my family spoke though, particularly my Dad was he used language in very flexible ways.
He was a proficient contortionist of words and their meanings. Often substituting commonly understood adjectives for more tactile, descriptive words. For example, honking. “It’s honking in here!” he might say upon entering a room. Honking could have meant a few different things. Hot for instance, honking could have meant it was hot. It could have meant it smelled bad. It could have been a way to describe the discussion taking place in the room as unworthy we were “talking a a bunch of blether”. I don’t know why he substituted words for others, I thought it was a Glaswegian quality, but I am not sure it is. My cousins don’t seem to do this. I think he was making unconscious small invitations for us to create connections between words and people by making things a little bit messy. I find myself doing this also.
I teach business communications and it’s an interesting habit to have, to not be very exact with words when you are trying to teach concise, professional business communications. My students and I muddle through because most of them hold english as their second, third or fourth language and they understand being flexible in word choices. I think they perceive me as someone who has a lot of room for their word substitutions when they might falter or reach for words they are not sure of and they are absolutely right. I have all the time in the world for that. When I make up a word or substitute a word in a way that is not exact I find it can be a small moment of waking up. It opens an invitation to either ask me what I am talking about because I have not been clear or create connections in the context of the topic because they have to reach a little to get the meaning. That inexact use of language has the ability to open connections between ideas and between people because there is a reach that needs to be made cognitively for understanding. I am not communicating with precision so they need to reach to find the meaning, either to me or within their own understanding.
In my final reflection for LRNT 521 I described my trajectory through education as lumpy. I looked at that description a few times considering changing it. Lumpy. Lumpy. It’s not very academic sounding but it felt right . As I develop my writing in the MALAT program I look forward to keeping my voice in the reflections and in posts but being more agile with choices of when and how to use language appropriately for the different connections I want to create.