08 January 2021
A number of years ago now, additions to my family arrived in the form of twin girls to one of my elder brothers and his wife. It was noticed that the twins were soon talking to each other in a language all of their own. Later they began to learn English and their private language stopped, but I believe this is not uncommon, this ‘private’ language. Whilst looking through YouTube, I then watched a short item about a child who was deaf but went with his older sisters to a local store so they could see Father Christmas. This young child at first took no interest in seeing him, but then, on learning that the child was deaf and just learning to use sign language, Father Christmas motioned to him and began signing to the youngster. It was clear that the young child was really pleased at this, as was his mother.
Across this world a whole range of ways to communicate have sprung up over many years. From simple animal noises to symbols like Egyptian hieroglyphs, there are so many different forms. Not all are written in a left-to-right way as many of us are used to either. We all know of other physical ways, such as the smoke signals by American Indians, whilst on ships there are flags as well as the lights which use Morse code. We have since progressed with technology, having developed the radio telegraph. I myself lived for a few years opposite the local telephone exchange, little did I realise that years later I would be working for that telephone company! Once in their employ I learned about the telephone network, the bare basics of how it all worked, I even knew the locations for many of the one hundred and twenty-six exchanges that there were in the Peterborough Telephone Area! To aid my career, in order to learn more about the business as a whole I was moved around a few times to different departments. As a result I learned about their billing system, how operator-controlled calls were charged for, I got to help compile as well as ‘proof-read’ telephone directories. That was a task! Though it helped me a great deal, as nowadays I can often recognise spelling or grammatical errors quite quickly and I have been asked to proof-read items before they are sent to print because I can spot errors. Then Sales work gave me more self-confidence, which I did need. But there was a great deal more for me to learn. Computers, for one thing! I found I really enjoyed how they worked, logically. I gained more skills – for a start I learned how to type one-handed. We were now communicating more and in new computer languages. At first there was talk of reducing the amount of paperwork we would be generating by using computers, but I think they probably created and still do create a bit more. But in every change, it was all about forms of communication that we now tend to rather take for granted.
No matter what language we use, what form of communication, the idea is to transmit information one to another. It does not matter whether it be across to another human, or perhaps to another living creature. Often words as we know them are unnecessary. Just as a gesture, a smile, even simply standing still and showing a calmness can make a real difference. When threatened, we do still have that ‘fight or flee’ instinct, although some creatures I believe will just ‘play dead’. Whatever we do, it is a form of communication. It is simply a language. I understand that whales and other sea creatures use sounds to get their message across to others. As I sit here writing this, I look out of my window and can see a weather vane, which indicates which way the wind is blowing. From that I can deduce what the weather may be like. As many of you know, I have for many years been a fan of the Sci-fi series ’Star Trek” and in their time, many of the gadgets they used seemed incredible, yet I have here a mobile phone which connects me to the internet, it has a built-in camera so I can take photos and share them with friends who are thousands of miles away and who will receive these same pictures just seconds after I have sent them. There are wristwatches that will work as a telephone, they can check our health, for example blood pressure, heart rate, how far we have walked, play recorded music and do so much more. Earlier this week I watched a video that a friend had sent to me of light drones which had been programmed to put on a display for the start of this New Year in Scotland. It really was very good, but it did make me wonder quite what our ancestors might have thought of it, had they seen such a thing so many years ago. An invasion of creatures from Mars? The conspiracy theorists of the day would have had a wonderful time! However, it was still communication and the drones would have been using a language to communicate.
There are now many different computer languages, I have said before how I learned some of them. Right now I am using an Apple computer, but I don’t need to know the language it uses, just be aware of it. The same is true in so many different areas of work, simply an awareness of a specialist language. I became very aware of that after my heart attack in 2010. Whilst I was still in hospital, a doctor and several student doctors surrounded my bed and they began talking about me but not to me, which I wasn’t exactly happy about. I was ignored. They talked in medical terminology about me and my condition, then the doctor looked around and said “Right then – any questions?”. So I spoke up and I asked “Very interesting, but what does all that mean to me please?” The doctor apologised, then said to the student doctors “You must be prepared for patients like Andrew here”. He then explained, in non-medical terms, what had happened to me, what had been found and what treatment I would be receiving, both now and in the future. I thanked him very much. These students were taught. They had to communicate, not just between themselves, but also to communicate in a common language that their patients would and could understand.
Still, I had to smile a few months later when I saw a consultant. He asked me if there were any others in my family with heart problems. I told him about my mothers’ brothers, who had all passed away through various heart problems at fairly early ages. He then, whilst busily writing a few notes, said “Oh, good…”. I replied “I beg your pardon???” but I did smile. I knew he had his ‘clinical’ mind in gear! He then apologised profusely, but I knew it was useful for him to know such things! Knowing there was such a history in my family was an important fact for him.
A friend of mine is learning Hebrew and I happened to find an item on YouTube comparing that with another language. There seemed to me to be quite a few similarities, so I shared that video with my friend. It amazes me how all of these different languages develop. If you have seen the original film “Stargate” that was released in 1994, you will know what I mean. Right now I am continuing with my learning of basic Spanish, it is slow going but I am still enjoying it. There are some fun things to be found too, like I knew that a sombrero was a Mexican hat. But did you know that the Spanish word for ‘hat’ is ’sombrero’? I do now! As a youngster I did so enjoy ‘Cowboys and Indians’ on television, especially the series with the Lone Ranger, featuring Tonto. Except I found out recently that in Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, “tonto” translates as “a dumb person”, “moron”, or “fool”. In the Italian version of the tv series the original name is retained, but in the Spanish dubbed version, the character is called “Toro”, the Spanish for “bull”. Apparently the creator of the Lone Ranger series grew up in Michigan, USA and knew members of the local Potawatomi tribe, who told him it meant “wild one” in their language. When he created the Lone Ranger, he gave the name to the Lone Ranger’s sidekick, apparently unaware of its negative connotations. There are times when communication and language can be troublesome!
To close this week…
I have previously mentioned Star Trek and whilst watching an episode recently I was reminded of a race in that series called the Ferengi. They live by their ‘Rules of Acquisition’, but I will say more on those another time.
I must first stress that the following is all very much science fiction!!!
Star Trek features many different races. One are the Ferengi, whose women are referred to simply as “females”. These females are barred from most aspects of society, such as not being allowed to earn profit or to travel. They are not even allowed to wear clothes and are expected to be undressed at all times. As Quark (a well-known character in one of the Star Trek series) once put it, “Thinking about things is not something either expected or desired by females”.
Neither is having opinions or political views. They are not allowed to have any claim to the estate of a husband should the marriage end, as all females are generally required to sign a waiver of property and profit, giving up any such claim. Laws and traditional social values relegate females to the level of property. These females have no valued role in society, except for the propagation of male heirs. If a female is caught earning profit, she is forced to give back all she has earned and then either sign a confession, admitting the error of her ways, or be sold to indentured servitude if she refuses. Her male relatives then have to make restitution.
This is, of course, thankfully, science fiction!!!