Monday, February 18, 2008
The Power of Words...Which Language? A Response to Karen Mayes' Dad
Just downed another yogurt and banana, because I will maintain my new body at least until I have to get into that dress for the wedding! And now, the Italian construction workers cheer when I walk by instead of the normal once-over. Although, don't lose your pants...the toothless Italian construction workers are NOTHING like those muscular sweaty-hot American ones. Damn. Anyway, I almost did not make it home in one piece today because as I tried to pass a VERY slow-moving car, I almost crashed head-on into an oncoming van...almost, but not quite, so here I am still alive and typing like a madwoman. Why are there only 24 hours in a day? DING. Jordan's pizza is ready. The child eats pasta with ricotta, pizza or chicken fingers, not the best diet, but since I so do not "cook" in the kitchen...
Karen Mayes left me a comment her dad sent her yesterday, and when dads send comments, they must be addressed, especially this whopper (note: I will separate it into paragraphs for the commenter who complained):
"I read the blog from the woman living in Italy with her CI son. I enjoyed it very much. Somewhat related, I have been listening to lectures on great novels and today the professor was talking about how useless words are. They are horrible representations of what we see, feel, think and indeed say. What exactly do the words honor, faith, melancholy, blue, beautiful, upset, lovingly etc. etc. mean?
People, hearing and I assume deaf, will argue along the lines, "You said (fill in the blank) which tells me you mean (fill in the blank). Answer, "I said (fill in the blank) but not with that inflection you just used which changes what I meant." A recent book was written by a woman and the title was something along "Are You Wearing That Dress?" a question asked of a daughter by her mother. You can have a lot of fun with that question depending in what context the question was asked, the relationship between the mother and daughter and the different inflections used in the asking. Maybe it is a simple question or maybe it is a criticism. Words mean what ever we say they mean. They are always contextual and suffer from different interpretations. But words are wonderful and can paint beautiful pictures.
The professor talks about a scene in a Faulkner novel where the character goes out at night to take a drink from the bucket of water with a dipper and says he scatters the stars with the dipper, bringing alive the image of the reflection of the stars in the bucket but also eluding to the idea of the Bid Dipper and Little Dipper scattering the night stars.
Might be an area you might want to open to discussion with your group. I assume there are misinterpretation in ASL as well as the hearing world. It would be productive to see how people can learn not only how to hear each other but how to listen to what each is trying to say with the inadequate tools of words and signs.
One last thought. Scientist use the term "sensory probes" when discussing our senses. Touch, hearing, sight, smell are all sensory probes used to navigate our environment. What do you call deaf or sightless animals??? Lunch.. Many people do not like the idea but we too are animals and if we do not have the full use of all our senses we are at an disadvantage to compete. You will not wind up as someone else's lunch, but deafness is a disadvantage.
Seems reasonable to me one would want to improve his or her completive position, by getting an education, staying healthy, using a wheel chair if crippled, Braille if blind and maybe a cochlear implant if deaf. I plan on getting a hearing aide when my hearing falters. I do not plan on joining my local ASL group to discover my deaf heritage. Do you think I would be a happier, more complete person if I had joined some German Society when I was young to get in touch with my German heritage? I think it is wonderful that there is a support group to turn to that gives the history of the deaf and sense of pride the ASL groups intend to offer. But limit their appeal by requiring conformity..."
KM's Dad...POWERFUL WORDS that cover a variety of arguments. First of all, I love words, playing with words, sending subliminal messages and subliminally transmitting my thoughts to anyone who wants to understand. Paotie does that in his blog and that's why I enjoy reading his posts. Mishka and Aidan blog in a more straightforward passionate manner and oftentimes use text, quotes and research to support their words. My knowledge of Italian has only improved my take on English and the combination of the two languages enables me to make my points in a more specific manner. Italian is a culturally rich language full of euphemisms, idioms and words that really know how to specifically reflect an emotion, it's a very Romantic language.(interruption: Jordan and Simone just got home. Saturday night Jordan taught Simone the Twinkle Twinkle Little Star song on his guitar and Simone is now playing it. Beautiful. I'm imagining my son playing for the ladies around a beach campfire, he is the type.) I can only imagine how ASL and English play together when the individual has total visual and auditory access.
I do agree with your question, "What exactly do the words honor, faith, melancholy, blue, beautiful, upset, lovingly etc. etc. mean?" Sometimes, we don't really even know ourselves the meanings of these words until we actually live them, and then, only by explaining the experience can we give meaning to such general terms. Explaining the experience in such a way as to give meaning to such words is art in and of itself...I think Aidan created art in her post, because she managed to convey her feelings using words that touched me. I don't have to agree with her, but I can appreciate the art in what she is saying.
"Words mean what ever we say they mean. They are always contextual and suffer from different interpretations." I agree with this statement, as well, but don't forget to add other factors...body language, eyes and the audience. If I write, "I'm unwrapping a lollipop" to my girlfriend (depending on the girlfriend) and if I say the same thing to a guy friend (doesn't matter which guy friend) interpretations may vary, also depending on how well the person knows my personality. If I say this to a certain person and add body language and serious eye contact, the statement assumes an entirely different meaning. For now, let's just stick to the written aspect, though. The same thing has occurred in our discussions about the word "Fix." Interpretations are not always about taking it from the source, rather, the audience plays an important role in "getting" what the author is saying. That audience has a variety of experiences behind the words that the author just may not have...and this is the response to your point: "It would be productive to see how people can learn not only how to hear each other but how to listen to what each is trying to say with the inadequate tools of words and signs."
"Many people do not like the idea, but we too are animals, and if we do not have the full use of all our senses we are at an disadvantage to compete." I am an animal, no debate there. In regard to the rest, being at a disadvantage to compete is directly related to your environment and your desire for competition. Hearing people are the majority, so if you live in that environment, deafness will be a disadvantage. I am certain that people who submerge themselves in the Deaf community have decided to live in an environment where they do not feel at a disadvantage...entirely. Reality would dictate that Deaf individuals still need to interact with a hearing world, but the "disadvantage" factor is all in the eye of the individual acknowledging or not acknowledging the sense of disadvantage.
As the hearing mom of a deaf child, I consider the disadvantage and wanting to give my son all the power of choice in the world to never feel totally limited by environmental factors, chose the cochlear implant. Ultimately, he will choose his least restrictive environment socially and economically...only time will tell.
And...last but not least:
"I think it is wonderful that there is a support group to turn to that gives the history of the deaf and sense of pride the ASL groups intend to offer. But limit their appeal by requiring conformity..."
In an ideal world there would be no conditions placed on people and ideals, but the world is composed of diverse experiences, emotions, and demands for validation. Those vague words that you were talking about are powerful enough to break the barriers, the only question is...which language do we use?