Ostomy Memories of Spoken Words


THERE HAVE BEEN TIMES when I’ve needed help to translate English into English.  Sometimes it was just my inability to understand someone speaking with a thick accent.  I just don’t seem to have an ear for English spoken by many immigrants whose native inflections and accent impact the sound and pattern of their speech.  But it doesn’t end there.  A lot of different professions develop a unique argot, a form of lingo particular to their work, that may not register easily with others.  Lawyers don’t sue, they litigate.  Social workers don’t consider something, they address it.  Doctors don’t see swelling, they see edema.  These are all simplistic examples, but you get the idea.  A large part of many professional practices involves taking what could be clear concepts and making them opaque.  Language is the tool for accomplishing that.  As Edwin Newman pointed out years ago, “boundaries are parameters, parts are components, things are not equal but co-equal, signs are indicators, and causes are dependent or exogenous variables.”  These people have to justify their six figure salaries somehow.  But six-syllable words may not be their best friend after all.  I once watched a lawyer with a voluminous vocabulary making his closing argument to a jury.  Much of what he said sailed right over their common-sense heads, smacking against the courtroom wall behind them and dripping down without comprehension.  The case against his client ended simply:  “We find the defendant guilty.”  So much for big words.


Hello HenrM.

Thanks for another interesting musing.
I have always had difficulty understanding people from the North of England and Scotland. My contention is, that when they are on the TV there should be subtitles.
One of the worst genres for the use of obscure words must be in the academic world of sociologists.
It was their tendency to write their (simple) ideas in the form of lengthy books, interspersed with Latin words and phrases that motivated me towards expressing myself in rhyme, using no more than eight verses to express any one concept.
I believe that one term for describing this trait in these people is ‘verbal diarrhoea’. When looked at from this point of view, their communications seem to take on a whole new and more meaningful perspective.

Best wishes




The CLASS that we are in today
is     CASTE , which put another way
is a MOULD, which patterns me and you
and MOULD is rotten through and through.

                                                                B. Withers 1990
                                                                (In: ‘Catharsis’ 1992)


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Back in my "working days," it was called "baffle them with bullshit." Truth is, most knew who the bullshitters were.


Hi Henry, my husband also has difficulty understanding foreign accents. We watch a lot of British TV dramas, and I'm constantly stopping the playback to ask him if he understood what was just said, and then repeating it for him. If I didn't do this, I'm sure he would have no idea of what was going on.

I used to know a woman who always went out of her way to impress on people just how high-class she was (she wasn't). She worked for a doctor, as a receptionist/girl Friday. I never heard her utter the word 'doctor' though. She worked for a 'physician' because somehow, I guess, that made her feel that her job was more important.


Reply to TerryLT

I've often wondered how, if at all, people distinguish between attorneys and lawyers...  it's like bugs vs. insects.

Stories of Living Life to the Fullest from Ostomy Advocates I Hollister

You should try learning a new language; it'll challenge you for a while.

Reply to AlexT

Nothing like being bilingual, eh?  

Reply to HenryM

Yeah. Pushing train cars is shoving, pulling train cars is stretching. Clocking out for the day is tying up. Going in a van to or from a train is deadheading. Anytime being on duty after 12hrs is tow in. Sitting in a hotel for more than 16hrs is held away.

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