Say What?! The Confessions of a Wordaholic.

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Quite possibly the worst time to mess up your speech…

 

Hey everyone! Happy Spring!

I hope you all have been doing great since my last post, and that these musings can alleviate some of the remarkably discouraging stress of midterms. Ironically, but not surprisingly, one of my assignments has given me some hilarious, unprecedented clarity to the way I approach the world around me and the rest of my classes. I’m currently taking a class on Psycholinguistics, for which I need to collect about twenty speech errors and ponder the cause of these slips of the tongue.

This has done something truly fantastical. My ears have been perked up, and I’m telling you, we say some bizarre things. I spend much of my free time going to hear various speakers, so my list spans from the closest of my friends at school, to a widely diverse crowd of ideologues and professors. Being articulate doesn’t make you immune to making these mistakes. And please still love me, but if you say something funny, I will write it down on my hand or handy-dandy notebook. I just will. You get off easy if it’s Shabbos. My memory is just fine, but I’m no superhuman. And I won’t ask you to recall something that you messed up on- we all jumble up our speech, so it’d be cruel to give someone a hard time about it.

Think of Sarah Palin. I am so incredibly far from supporting her political agenda, so no worries, guys, but she was given a lot of negative press for mispronouncing “nuclear.” A really outrageous amount of press. We get it, she may not be the most astute person on this planet, and she might like oil more than most, but as my other not-so-favored pop-culture figure liked to say, “…everybody makes mistakes.”

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Whole Foods summer program essay camp-out…

Ok. Moving away from the people who really challenge my conception of an ideal politician or singer, I’ll share some of the really wild things I’ve picked up on.

The best ones I’ve noticed are the mashed-up, mixed-up word combos.

I have the utmost pleasure of taking Phonology this semester, which requires many silly late hours and early wake-ups just to finish the most basic assignments. Late one night, I was studying in the lounge (a generous way to call three couches and a large window) next to my room with a friend, who, while talking about Linguistics, noted that she at times “jobbled” up her words. She looked remarkably quizzical and then burst out into laughter. She really meant to say “jumbled” and it just came out funny.

And so my adventure began. That I guess is a meta-story since we were already talking about ridiculous things that come out of peoples’ mouths.

One of my professors is by no means a native English speaker, and I usually don’t understand a majority of what she says-and I’ve already had her for a whole semester. For all I know I misunderstood her instructions and wasn’t even supposed to do this assignment at all. Well, I guess it’d be for the sake of learning. Which honestly isn’t the worst thing. The other day, she was talking about the “garden path effect,” which basically means that if you see a sentence and feel like you need to reread it because something seemed super funky, you’ve been led down the “garden path.” There’s also this thing called the kindergarten path…but we don’t need to get into that because I don’t want to sound like a condescending, holier-than-thou psycholinguist. ‘Cause I’m not.

At any rate, mid-lecture, she was really excited to tell us about the “garden state.” Ummm…spent much time in New Jersey recently? I thought to myself. Clearly not. She was mega-pregnant at the time of the comment. But it gave a very very dull class a good laugh.

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My list in my little book of wisdom. Fear the purple notebook.

There’s something else I’ve noticed which irks me although I myself am not devoid of this habit. We tend to wait on each other to make mistakes. Yup. I mean if you tend not to be in agreement with someone, you hope that some bit of their argument takes a turn for the worst…easily accomplished by a verbal blunder, of course.

There’s definitely a real name for this phenomenon (the same way as flipping the first letters of two words is called a “Spoonerism” after a famous 19th C. British intellectual who flipped his letters like it was no one’s business), but for now we can call it “The Sarah Palin Effect.” I will never give her this much air time again. I pinky promise.

To elucidate the very vague “I go to lots of random lectures” assertion from before, in case this is your first exposure to my life and writing, I am heavily involved in the Israel Activism community at Brandeis, through both J Street and bVIEW. I have been to a myriad of events emphasizing drastically different opinions on matters regarding the conflict and domestic issues, and therefore have heard speakers who fall far to the right of my position, and a few somewhat to the left.

One notable experience I had was when I went to a session at LimmudNY this winter, titled “Anti-Zionism is as Crucial to Judaism as Zionism” or something along those lines. I came into the lecture a few minutes late since I was staffing the day camp, and walked in while the speaker, Gidi Greenstein, was explaining a phenomenon he referred to as “flexigidity.”

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Evidence. From the heat of the moment.

What? Flexigidity? That’s NOT a thing. I jotted down the term, convinced it was a speech error, but after a few minutes I realized it was some invented, strange, convoluted term for a complex sociological dynamic of sorts.

“…this Jewish sauce, “flexigidity,” a portmanteau of flexibility and rigidity. He defines the hybrid term as the ability to optimize the pace of collective adaptation by balancing new and old, innovation and tradition, and flexibility and rigidity. Grinstein says this age-old balance has gone out of whack in recent decades, and the challenge is to set it right before it is too late, especially in the State of Israel.”

Renee Ghert-Zand, The Times of Israel, 12/30/13

I happen to disagree with the thesis of his talk, namely saying that Anti-Zionism simply exists for the sake of being “that inevitable opposition” that does not ever stand to negate the notion of peoplehood, but on the other hand those who fall into the BDS camp are inherently and fundamentally anti-Jewish-peoplehood. Therefore, on a basic level, I was determined that his phrase, although unrelated to the general thesis, was bogus, and that the strangeness of what I perceived to be a speech error was indicative of an intellectual gap.

Wow. That sounds pretentious. But NEWSFLASH- We all do that. Think about that the next time you’re listening to someone with whom you tend to disagree.

Disclaimer: I’m not trying to bring you all at odds with your friends, but just trying to bring your attention to something that really affects our perception of the people around us.

So on that note, as usual, now that you’ve sufficiently walked around my brain for a bit and hopefully enjoyed it, I’ll leave you to your stressful shenanigans and shindigs. Hopefully with a smile:)

‘Till next time!

Yours Truly,

HZK

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Slips of the tongue…fine. I need to be coerced to do this kind of slipping.

 

 

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