Friday, 25 June 2010

It’s not what you say…

...it’s how to you say it.

Sometimes a phrase becomes a cliché because it’s damn true.  This is one of those times.

For example: cursing.

My ma-in-law recently determined that she’s been knitting wrong for years. (How a person can knit “wrong” is beyond me – if it holds itself together without duct tape and hot glue then there shouldn’t be a problem).  She said that if she’d looked up a demonstration on Youtube sooner, she’d have saved herself a lot of cursing.

My first thought: why would you want to save yourself the opportunity to curse?  I told her cursing was therapeutic – good for the soul.  She said that her soul must be in great shape at the moment.

It doesn't matter anyway.  Cursing is less about what you say, and more about how you say it.  Like, if I yelled “GRUBBY REPUGNANT MONKEY!” that could be just as effective as screeching the F-word at the top of my lungs.  It doesn’t really matter what the words are – it’s the outburst (or in some cases, the under-the-breath mumble) that relieves the internal tension.

Another example: emphasis.

My husband has this way of putting emphasis on the right words, on the right syllables, to get a totally different message across.  The other night he said: “If you’re going to park your car in the driveway, can you please make sure you move it in the morning so I can get in the garage?”

Except that isn’t how he said it…

“If you're going to park in the driveway at night, can you pleeeaaassse make sure you move your car in the morning so I can get in the garage?”

When I smiled back at him, I made our ‘you’re being yippy’ hand symbol (clapping my thumb and fingers together like a bird beak).  To which he replied:  “But I asked so nicely!”.

Bull shit.  He didn’t ask nicely.  He asked yippily, making excellent use of his emphasis trick.

Later, he used his dirty little trick again.  He was pointing out why his newest cheap guitar is not as good as his fancy-dancey expensive guitar, even though he seems to like the sound of the cheap one better.  He said: “It’s just a campfire guitar.  And, it’s ugly.”

But that’s not how he said it…

“It’s just a campfire guitar.  And it’s Uhg-ly.”  He put pressure on “ugly”, emphasizing that even though the sound is ok, he’s disgusted by the colour – which, in his opinion, makes it the perfect ‘campfire’ guitar.  He uses this one a lot.  He can’t just say he thinks something is unattractive.  He has to say uHG-ly.  Really grunting into it.  Uhg!  Uhg-ly.  Oh, that’s so Uhg-ly!

Let's be honest.  My husband is SO not the only one who does this.  You know you do it too.  And so do I.  The fact is, it’s all just in our tone.  Our words don’t really matter - it’s what we mean by them that counts.

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