I’m Perfectly Normal…

Ever notice that that the basic building blocks of language can be assembled in different ways to make entirely different structures? You needn’t stray into foreign languages or ethnically relaxed  grammar, ether… take our heading phrase. Seen as it is, it is a statement of good mental hygiene.

Say ” Normally, I’m perfect ” and you open up a whole new range of behavioural possibilities – if you pause pointedly they become disquieting.

And it’s not just the order of the words – timing is critical. ” I really love you ” said straight out is charming. ” I love you…really…” is a world of worry with an ellipsis flavour. I would be edging toward the door, if I were you.

The reason for this reflection is a recent motion picture on television; ” Greyhound ” with Tom Hanks. It’s a war drama set on a destroyer escort and most of the spoken action takes place on the bridge and in the combat plotting room. The dialog is complex and precise – and every statement is made in such a way as to be unambiguous. When the lookout addresses the bridge, or the bridge the plot room, they do it in a set order of identification; destination, origin, message. It may well be a universal form of naval communication.

It means the hearers know from whence the message comes and to whom it addressed. If they are either of these parties they are vitally concerned with it. Otherwise they can hear and not respond. They also communicate back  in a set form so that the speaker knows they have been heard. This is unfortunately missing from normal civilian communications – so many marriages could be saved if it were not so.

Moral of this? Say what you mean clearly. Make sure you say it to whomever you wish, but make equally sure they have heard it and have acknowledged it. Most conversations on this basis actually work.


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