Communication Revisited

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May 7th, 2011
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Heath Robinson?? … You’ve no idea what I’m talking about, I can tell by the puzzled expression on your face.

To the uninitiated, Heath Robinson drew fantastically over-engineered machines, which verged on the ridiculous. His name has become associated with a bizarrely over complicated way of doing things.

It was a recent visit to the UK by two American friends, here to promote their movie and see it screened at a film festival in London, followed by a discussion with my American writing partner; and my American business partner’s occasional questions on British expressions, led me to revisit my thoughts on communication.

It occurs to me that in many ways the English speaking world is truly divided by a common language. Age and level of eccentricity also have their part to play, and my particular corner of the English language is certainly eccentric. Having a very much older father meant that sometimes even some of my school mates didn’t have a clue what I was going on about. But I grew up on Punch magazine and Roy Brooks’ house ads…

“Darkest Pimlico. Seedy FAMILY HOUSE two rooms in the basement, ground, 1st & 2nd floors and attic rm. on 3rd. Decor! peeling, faded and fly blown. Garden – good G.R. £60 p.a. £6,950. If you are too late to secure this gem we have a spare along the road rather more derelict. A lightly built member of our staff negotiated the basement stair but our Mr. Halstead went crashing through.”

I adored those adverts, Dad used to scan for them in the Observer on a Sunday and read them out with delicious relish. Most of my sense of humour I acquired from my father. Though I did gather a very nice line in world weary sarcasm from my Uncle Frank, nuclear physicist (given the MBE for his work at Harwell) and all round wit.

Naturally, my mother found my obsession with rotting decor and rat infestations completely inexplicable. When I fell in love, aged 12, with the art of the Swiss Surrealist H.R. Giger, my mother was even more confused. Nice little girls were supposed to be all sugar and spice… I had a passion for the dark side.  Goya, Dali, a mixture of the sinister and the bizarre, I liked it strange, dark and sinister.

Some three years after I discovered Giger, he created his most infamous design, that of the vicious xenomorph in the movie Alien. A design that has stuck and remains fresh and original even thirty-two years later. Needless to say I wasn’t actually old enough in 1979 to see the film in the cinema, so I claimed to be 18 and got away with it.

Despite my taste for the dark and arcane, I am a pretty laid back sort who enjoys most things if they are well put together and say something to me.

That is the thing about communication, linguistic peculiarities don’t matter. British, American, Australian, Kiwi – the different accents and colloquialisms add to the texture and variety of the English language. I am insatiably curious, and I go through periods of enthusiasms, which result in vast piles of books on all kinds of subjects. Language fascinates me, including the unspoken language of expression and posture.

You can say so much without words. But words will always have an enduring fascination for me.


1 Comment

  • Mel

    Four years of living in Nashville, Tennessee provided me with endless Southern colloquialisms, and a greater appreciation for the “English” language.

    “Seems like we’re having a bit of Blackberry WInter today.”

    “You want my buggy?”

    “You’re a Yankee, ain’t you?” (This came as a result of me putting pepper on my grits.)

    Good times…..Good times…….

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