We can say all the words we want, but communication requires something extra: the right words. If you don’t explain what you want to say in the language the other person understands, their understanding is going to be limited. By “language”, I mean the broad languages like English, Mandarin, French, etc., but also the smaller subgroupings within each of those.
Region could affect accent, the field of interest could affect terminology, the relationship the speakers have to each other could effect meaning and expression, but there’s even more than that! When we express ourselves, we need to be able to express an idea that they will be able to interpret as the same thing we mean. We need to speak clearly.
However, speaking clearly isn’t an easy skill to master. There’s a temptation to stick to the groups we know and are comfortable with because we are fluent in that group’s patois. In those settings, we know how to express ourselves and we know that when we are sarcastic, they’ll understand it as sarcasm. We can be funny, and they’ll understand the joke. But the problem with that is that people are different from each other. If we only stick to our little friendly groups, we deny oursleves. Talking to someone from a different culture is difficult. If you have similar cultures, or either of you are familiar with how to communicate, it becomes easier. It can range from semi-easy to incredibly difficult.
Yet if we push ourselves, talk to people we might be socially awkward around at first, we’ll get there. It might take months. It will probably take a lot of frustration for everyone involved. But that frustration will be worth it, because at the end of the day, you’ll be able to understand someone else just a little better. You’ll be able to see inside their head just a little easier, and that look may transform how you yourself see things. It’s difficult, but how many people could you learn from and have a wonderful time with, if you just put in a little more effort to understand them?
I had a math teacher who told me that How I Met Your Mother had a massive influence on the alcohol consumption of millennials because the characters on the show would casually buy a bottle of wine to consume in the evenings. Regardless of the truth of that information, shows do and truly impact how we percieve “normal”. Frankly, It’s amazing how linguistic quirks spread. From person to person, phrases and mannerisms spread like a disease, until entire regions share a style of communication. Through things like television shows and social media as well, habits can become ingrained in an entire nation.
Yet, think about language and culture on a smaller level. Then even smaller than that. Even families and friendships develop their own culture, which is why sometimes you visit someone’s house and its a culture shock. However we’ve gotten there, our individual micro-cultures have been developed by a massive amount of factors. Your mother might be the main cook in your because that’s the expectation of our society, but you might also give your siblings all of the stuff they’ve left in your room wrapped in a present on their birthday because of a youtube video you saw once. Or, there are times when you have strange games you and your family may play that you haven’t heard of anyone else playing.
Culture is something that’s created by humans, influenced by geography, biology, and history. But it’s also created by us and influenced by us. We may not be able to change what’s normal on our own, but we can start a trend, spread an idea or thought. People tend to think of culture as something stagnant and musty but it’s actually the mental backdrop of your life. You don’t know why you save plastic bags, or maybe you do, but you do it without thinking.
Everyone has a culture. We have cultures within our families, friend groups, schools, communities, cities, regions, nation– all on different levels and all special to help defining your world view and behaviors. This does not take away from those behaviors or justify them, just helps explain them. No matter how disconnected you may feel at times, you aren’t. Your actions and manners of expression are part of the fabric of a living culture.
Language is incredible. Strictly speaking, it is the process of conveying ideas and information. It is ambiguous, changing, expressive, yet structured and adherent to basic blocks. Animals can communicate with each other, even plants communicate through neurotransmitters sent out through their bodies, yet humans have gone beyond other creatures with language. Within words and phrases, we can express entirely fascinating thoughts, in such nuanced ways! When humans grow attached to animals, it is often because they can understand how that creature is feeling or desiring. Not too many people care about lamps, but creatures such as dogs can display emotions that we relate to.
Furthermore, even when we don’t realize it, we judge people based upon their language use. Education and socioeconomic status have been so tightly knit together throughout history, we assume those who are rich are able to speak more effectively. One of my favorite movies as a child was My Fair Lady, with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn, in which a snobby misogynistic linguist trains a poor cockney flower girl to speak like a duchess to win a bet. By the end of the movie (spoiler alert), Hepburn’s character manages to convince a linguistic expert at some fancy ball that she is royalty from a foreign land. I loved it because the whole “experiment” showed that there was nothing defining the rich from the poor except how they held themselves, and the only reason they could hold themselves that way was because they had the time and resources to learn to do so.
If we can communicate well, we are better adapted to succeed in our social connections, and can use those social connections to be better at our jobs. However, in order to become effective communicators, we need education. In order to receive high quality and quantity education, we need money. In order to get money, we need to have high paying jobs, ones that say, are dependent on knowing the right people and having the right social connections. There’s absolutely other factors involved, but language is one of the main dividing barriers between class. Beyond class issues, language can improve your cognitive ability to process complex issues.
Don’t underestimate the power of language. Learn, read, try to expand your vocabulary! Knowledge is power. If you feel like you can’t express yourself, look through the dictionary until you can. If you want to be better at life, learn how to communicate with the humans around you.
Malaphors are mixed metaphors, blended idioms; one of the best known ones is, “We’ll burn that bridge when we get there” but there is also, “Our hard work is finally starting to pay fruit” and “An apple a day makes the horse drink”.
Malaphors are so fun because it’s unexpected. We are used to hearing certain words right after each other. In many ways, that’s how we approach life, as if every step is predetermined. Depending on what you believe, maybe it is. However, we don’t often know our destiny. At the very least, we don’t know the future. We can’t tell what it holds, only guess and approximate. We can either take that as frightening and live cautiously, without risk, or we can live. A life without risks is miserable. No matter how safe we like to be, without straying from the status quo, we bind ourselves to achieving less than our full potential.
Language can break hearts, change people, make us angry, happy, every emotion there is! It’s an incredible tool that shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, there is still a place for malaphors. Life is full of dangerous things and obstacles. However, there is a time for putting yourself out there. Let life be unexpected and deal with it the best you can. Without learning, life isn’t really life at all. Afterall, if it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and walks like a duck, make lemonade.
Almost everyone has tried to write a book at some point in their life. It might be three pages long and half developed or it might be a full three page novel they can’t stop editing. If you ask someone what they would like to write a book about, practically every single person can think of something they’ve secretly been working on mentally. However, there obviously isn’t a book on the shelves for every person who wants to write one because they usually don’t even find their way onto paper.
There’s lots of reasons why a book doesn’t come into fruition. The person forgets the idea, they discard it, life gets in the way and they don’t work on it, they complete it and never get it published, they try to get it published and no one wants it; there’s so many things that can sway a book from publication. The big factor, though, is the individual who wants to write it. We don’t write books because we usually don’t have the self-control to do so. It’s not that the idea isn’t big enough, or that the plot isn’t developed enough. It’s the fact that we have to put our heads in the game on a daily basis and work on it until we make the idea big enough and the plot developed enough.
Not everyone is a writer, and not all writers are good at what they do. Writing is an incredibly difficult task, trying to get at the barest bones of communication. You don’t have to work on a book in order to feel successful in life, but we could all improve our self-discipline. It doesn’t matter what you want if you don’t do anything to get it. In some areas, writing a book is easier than other tasks because you can measure how much you’ve done through page number, word count, or chapters completed. So give yourself a measure! Make a checklist and fill out your goals. Don’t let your ambitions be unrealized, but seek them out every day, because every day is a gift.
We only see the mirror view of ourselves. Others get to see all angles of our faces, but we are limited in seeing how we really look on a daily basis. That’s why seeing a video of yourself is such a peculiar event; you are suddenly the onlooker of your own actions. But what is it like for a stranger? What parts of you are most salient? What aspect of your face do people focus on? It’s important to think about because perspective because we get really caught up in our own heads sometimes.
The fact is, we dwell on certain things. We get bored and start thinking about tasks that aren’t necessary for survival like the humans we are. However it also means that when anything occurs, we are looking through a subjective lens. The faults we see may not be obvious to other people. The beautiful parts we see might also be hidden. We are used to our own standard of features, people, places, emotions, and we compare everything to it, but it remains an unquantifiable bar.
All of this is just to say that it’s easy to forget that not everyone has had the same experiences. Not everyone sees what you see. To some people, our noses might be the first thing they think about. To others it might be our forehead or chin. When frustrations arise, try to look on as an outsider. Try to bend your mind. You don’t have to agree, just get out of your own head for a little bit and you’ll find that it shows the other person a great deal of respect.
The most beautiful part of any day is the fact that it exists. Particularly among the younger generations who’ve grown up alongside social media and computer technology, there’s a generally negative culture. Posting something means you are motivated emotionally to do so, and in most instances, we tend to feel more motivated by negative emotions than positive ones. That means what’s going onto our walls and blogs reflects those same emotions. There are jokes about the void, nihilism, and the ‘sweet embrace of death’ because we deal with these heavy feelings through humor. Linguistically, we’ve developed a form of hyperbolic speech contrasted with minor events and appropriated entire concepts into slang like “same”. However, we can get easily overwhelmed by this constant stream and begin to cultivate unhealthy thought processes.
Just take a moment to pause yourself and think about what you see everyday. We like to think of ourselves as unaffected by propaganda compared to the normal population (It’s called the third-person effect) but the truth is that, statistically speaking, you are affected by the media. There’s a whole slew of phenomenon and theories about it, but spending hours on social media has an impact on your psychological health. I am not immune, you are not immune, your friends aren’t immune; it’s just a result of living. It’s not always a bad thing either, but it is always good to be aware of what we are reading.
When you read these jokes and are surrounded with an atmosphere that mocks existence, it can be easy to feel purposeless. However, the existence of existence is important. Some claim that it would be better to not have been born at all. If you weren’t born, after all, then you would’t feel all the pain of living. You also wouldn’t even be able to appreciate nonexistence. Because we are, because we exist, we can feel every emotion. We can feel the positive feelings as well as the negative ones. We can laugh at stupid jokes and feel idiotic for not seeing something obvious. Existence and nonexistence aren’t comparable. Existence means being able to do something and grow past the difficulties. Existence means that you have the opportunity to both screw up your life, and also to fix it.
Davison, W. (1983). “The third-person effect in communication”. Public Opinion Quarterly. 47 (1): 1–15. doi:10.1086/268763