Do We Ever Say What We Mean?

Christopher Silas Neal

I was catching up on my Modern Love over the weekend and stumbled across “Even in English, a Language Gap”.

The author, Jennifer Percy, states, “Euphemisms, politeness, suggestiveness, sarcasm, irony and passive-aggressive gestures — all risk being lost in translation. In my writing class, I teach my students about subtext. I tell them people alter their conversations depending on whom they wish to address. I tell them people rarely say what they mean, that we are constantly revising our words, that the movement from thought to word is often transformative and strange.”

This statement got me thinking; in relationships, and in life, how often do we say exactly what we mean? How much of our speech is spoken in euphemisms or dysphemisms to avoid or create conflict?

As we are approaching the New Year I have been considering resolutions. Perhaps my resolution will be to speak more candidly in hopes of making my life a little simpler. Rather than relying on others to decipher my subtext I can articulate exactly what I mean when I mean it. As far as resolutions go, this is a lofty one. I can’t exactly measure every statement that comes out of my mouth as being “exactly what I mean”. But, I feel like a step toward that direction will due.

I can’t help but think of one of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes, “Be who you are say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind”. That basically sums it up. Speaking candidly, I think it’s something many of us aspire to do but few of us actually pull off.

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