Tuesday, February 03, 2009

From My Head To Yours

So there are words on a sheet of paper, which someone has written, and we read them. That’s quite an accomplishment just by itself. We have figured out what all these marks mean and someone has made the jump from their head to mine.

Then we speak these words to other people, maybe in person, on the radio or tv. It’s another jump, because we have now translated all those marks into sounds and someone is listening for those recognizable groups of noises.

But it’s so imperfect, this paper-to-voice thing. You will hear those words said one way in Maine, another in Boston, quite another just south of Boston, in New York City, in the Ozarks, then Texas and even when my brother gives it a try.

So we adjust our ears. Quickly enough, we realize that “Somebody fat here?” means, in Ohio, it’s a noun and we are looking for a heavy person; south of Boston, it’s a verb and we’re wondering if anybody had too many beans for lunch.

I’ve been to a State Store and I’ve been to a Package Store; it just depends on what state I was living at the time. The State Stores sold hard liquor and were owned by … well, you can guess. The Package Stores were privately owned and you had to take the More Effective Beverages out in a package, rather than consuming them on premises. (A licensed establishment cannot let you take out any containers; the good stuff must be consumed on-site. But we’re off-topic and out of space).


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