My wife sometimes tells me that I don’t speak clearly enough. I reply that other people don’t seem to have a problem understanding me, and maybe she’s just not listening closely enough.
To which she says, ‘Okay, dear — have a good time.‘
Case in point. A pleasant sentiment, perhaps, but case. In. Point.
On the other hand, she’s right. I’d never tell her — because she’d hear that, no problem — but she is correct. I do neglect to enunciate from time to time. Mostly, it seems, when I should speak most naturally and clearly — during an introduction.
I’d like to think that I can recite my own name properly. I mean, I did do a bit of acting when I was younger, and it’s not as though I haven’t memorized these lines. When it comes to saying: ‘Hi, I’m Charlie,’ I’ve got the material down pat. I haven’t just studied this ‘Charlie’ character; I’ve become him. I’ve lived Charlie, breathed Charlie, worked and played and eaten and drunk and slept Charlie. I am he; he is me; we are one. Charlie.
But apparently, I can’t pronounce our name. Not so English-speaking humans can understand it, anyway. Every time I meet someone new, the exchange goes like this:
“Hey, good to meet you; I’m Dave.”
“Hi, I’m Charlie.”
“Well, hi… was it ‘Jerry’?”
“No — Charlie.”
“Charlie. Char. Leeee.”
“Did you say ‘Chewie’?”
“Yes. That’s right, asshole. Chewie. *hhhhnnnggggghhhhhh!!* *ggggllllllrrrrrruuuuhhhhh!!* That’s me. Chewie. Because that’s a thing a normal person would be called.”
“Well, it’s swell to meet you, Chewie! This is my wife, Amidala.”
“Well, of course it is. What’s shaking, Your Excellency?”
“The point is, to people who’ve just met me, I’m apparently pretty inscrutable. Even when I’m perfectly willing to be scruted, they still can’t scrute me.”
Okay, so obviously it doesn’t go exactly like that every time.
(Sometimes the guy’s name isn’t ‘Dave’.)
The point is, to people who’ve just met me, I’m apparently pretty inscrutable. Even when I’m perfectly willing to be scruted, they still can’t scrute me. I remain scruteless in their company.
People I know, on the other hand, seem to understand me quite well. My friends seem to pick up on what I’m saying, nodding and smiling or recoiling in horror at the appropriate times. Everyone at work can hear me loud and clear — particularly, it seems, in the middle of long meetings, when I’m sitting in the back muttering about where life has gone so horribly wrong. They can hear that, let me tell you. I’ve gotten the memos and warnings.
(There was even a meeting with management to discuss repercussions. I sat in the back, and muttered about it. They heard. So we had a meeting to discuss the meeting. You can guess what happened there.
They eventually just let it go. All the muttering was distracting them from coming to a decision, they said. I told them that they were perfectly welcome to have a meeting without me, ever, since that would seem to make us all happy.
They muttered something about that. I didn’t catch it. But I bet it wasn’t good.)
You might think this snippet of realization would be a good opportunity to practice self-improvement. If I’m aware that newly-met people may not immediately understand me — whether I’m just shy around them, or have an oddly distinctive voice pattern, or it just takes time to accustom oneself to that much sexxay! in one man’s words — then perhaps I could compensate by cleeeeearly eeeee-NUN-ceee-ay-ting everything I say to them, to facilitate understanding. That seems like the prudent and mature thing to do.
Or, I could assume that around strangers its safe to loose the lid off my internal filters because no matter what I say, they’re never going to hear it the right way, anyhow. Like when I was talking to this girl I met who teaches yoga — and who found out I dabbled for a while in fauxga, and asked:
“Would you be interested in Kripalu?”
I’d known this girl for all of three minutes. So the smartass coast was clear; I didn’t even hesitate:
“I don’t know; is she hot?”
She clearly didn’t hear me correctly, because she launched into some soliloquy about the various types of yoga and which were her favorites and the traditions of each and probably other stuff that I wasn’t especially listening to. I spaced out for quite a while as she waxed yogetic on who knows how many related topics. Finally, she finished and looked at me expectantly, as though she’d ended with a question or wanted to know my innermost feelings about the whole business of whatever the business was. This time I thought for a moment, and eventually replied in what I felt was the most appropriate way:
“Okay, dear — have a good time.”
So I didn’t make a yoga friend that day, exactly, but at least now I know how my wife feels. Maybe I do mumble a little, and maybe she tunes me out if I yammer on about things she doesn’t care about. But at least she gets my name right, and never calls me ‘Chewie’.
Except when I wear the bear skin and bandolier to bed. But that’s different. And I’ve been sworn not to mumble about it.
(Or during. A simple *hhhhnnnggggghhhhrrrrrrr!!* will suffice. Or so I’m told. Quite clearly.)Permalink | No Comments