Life, Death & Coffee 

​Some people require a visual. Some are more auditory. Others still prefer the written word. This vlog/blog post has it all.

I actually have a friend who prefers my vlog posts, where I TALK, more than she does listening to what I – and many others feel – is the considerably better use of my voice. 

Personally, despite having a good vocabulary, I find it difficult to verbalise my thoughts and feelings. I am unable to put these things into SPEECH. So, I put them in songs (one uses a different part of the brain when one sings than when one talks… this is the reason why some people who have suffered severe strokes, rendered speechless, can sing just fine…it is also why a stutterer can sing perfectly and clearly) or in visual art which illustrates how I’m feeling.

I find talking overrated. When I’m forced to speak, I do so…but, it’s rarely willingly. And, inevitably, I never end up saying what I really want and need to get across. It’s very frustrating. I don’t stutter badly, but I have elements of the problem. Speech is just hard work.

Of course, the problem with art, in any form, is that once it’s ‘out there’ it’s open to all sorts of interpretation. You see, hear, read and feel it through YOUR filter.

Sigh. It is the human condition. 

But, I continue to try to communicate, for what it’s worth.

 Life is hard. One could say, life is hard as speaking, and life with ANY chronic illness is a prison. Here’s an animation illustrating the daily struggles and dreams thereof:

This next video is a music video… I’m not explaining it. Just watch and listen. 


And, ending on a fun note. One of my grandfather’s favourite jokes was about a guy who needed to pass his school exams, but he was woefully stupid. His teacher, trying to be kind to him, decided to help him out by marking him a passing grade if he could spell just one word correctly. The teacher thought about it and realised that the student was too dumb to even get one word right, so decided to let him pass if he could just get ONE LETTER of one word right. The teacher thought that, surely, even this idiot could at least get one letter in a word correct. So, the teacher said to his student, ‘Spell the word coffee.’ The student replied, ‘K.A.U.P.H.Y.

And, thus, I give you this:


May your coffee be good and may you always be heard.

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Watch “Is It Me You’re Looking For? (The answer-phone message for those of us whom phone calls make ill)” on YouTube

I’m not really sure if my inability to cope with phone calls is more to do with the avoidant personality disorder or with the social anxiety. Whichever or both, I don’t do phone calls. And so…this is my new answerphone/voicemail message.

A Meatball By Any Other Name (and other humorous British/American language confusions)

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Like most transplanted Americans to Great Britain, I am well-qualified to talk about the quirks of language and slang. That’s why this week’s writing challenge was made for me. It can be amusing (and just a whole lot embarrassing) if you are ignorant of the (rather large) differences in the meanings of some words. I have lived in the UK for over nine years now, and so I have mostly come to grips with calling bangs (in relation to hairstyle) a fringe, a trash can a rubbish bin, an elevator a lift and I accept various pronunciation differences in words like “garage” and “vitamin” and, of course, spelling differences (so much so that words like “colour” and “humour” and “neighbour” and “honour” do not look right to me sans the “u”). After this many years, I rarely ever slip up and call something by their American names. However, there is the rare occassion (especially when I’m tired) when my American-ness will surface….with varied results. I will get to my latest occurance in a bit; first I want to highlight some common and highly amusing examples of getting lost in translation with Americanisms and British slang.

Let’s take the word “fanny”. To an American, you have just said “bum”, “butt”, “backside”, “derriere”, “gluteus maximus”. However, to a Brit you’ve just used a slang term for female genitalia.

If that wasn’t funny enough, let’s try it the other way around. Say, “Fancy some faggots for tea?” You have just asked a Brit if he/she wants a very tasty foodstuff (somewhere between a meatball and a meatloaf but made with pork, really nice with gravy and mashed potatoes) for his/her evening meal. Say “faggot” to an American and you have just used a derrogatory term for someone of the homosexual persuasion. To further confuse matters, a slang term over here for cigarettes is “fags” (and it has nothing to do with the afore mentioned tasty foodstuff) while “fag”, to an American, is simply the short version of “faggot” which, as I have explained, is a very insulting name to call a gay person.

Biscuits and gravy? Tasty breakfast to most Americans (especially those of a southern persuasion). Say that to a Brit and they instantly picture Oreos (or some other cookie) that you must be destroying in your obviously disturbed and twisted mental state by covering them in meat gravy! Well, that does sound pretty sick, doesn’t it? I remember when my husband (fiancé at the time) came to visit me in the States the first time. He asked me what Americans like to eat for breakfast. I started with my list and came to biscuits and gravy and saw the look of horror that crossed his face. He was turning shades of green, so I quickly had to explain, “U’h…no, no, no…think savoury scones with a white gravy made from sausage.” He was still dubious until I took him to a Cracker Barrel restaurant and ordered some for him to try. “Not bad”, he said.

Fancy a shag? You are either an American carpet salesman or you are propositioning the person you’re talking to (although, I suspect, most Americans are wise to this one now thanks to Austin Powers…Yeah, Baby, yeah).

This brings us to “whacking off”, and my recent experience with it. I was talking to a friend (an English friend) – yes, I have friends – and talking about getting my hair cut. I remembered to call “bangs” “fringe”. And, I said something like, “Yeah, I’m just going to whack it off and have a fringe again.” I said it a few times without thinking about it, until my friend could no longer contain herself and said, “Autumn! Stop saying ‘whack it off’, please!” She was laughing pretty hard by now and having a difficult time catching her breath, when it finally dawned on me…

See, say “whack it off” to most Americans and you will have just told them you are going to cut something off (be it your front hedge or a tree limb or your hair). Say “whack it off” to a Brit and, well, there’s really no way to put this delicately… it’s a slang term for masturbation.

Yep. And, there I was, going on about whacking it off. She was in bits. I had simply forgotten and fallen into an old pattern of speaking. Humorous? Definitely. Embarrassing? That, too.

Dare I mention the perfectly innocent (to the American mind) words “toss” and “spunk”? I fear, for the British mind (with the exception of, perhaps, the more dirty minds amongst us), I may have taken this post a tad too far (my sincere appologies to those with more delicate sensibilites; I really don’t mean to offend…I’m just attempting to prove the point).  For, your simple throw of something (in the former word) or your characteristic of a vivacious personality trait (in the latter) mean something entirely different over here, with “toss” resembling my whacking it off and “spunk” the result of the whacking!! Oh, dear.

Language really is a seriously funny old thing.  Communication is a very tricky thing. Tread carefully, my friend. Your innocent comment or invitation to dinner might be someone else’s offensive comment or offer to get it on (or take it off… or, indeed, whack it off, as the case may be).

Perspective (Let’s Get Real)

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Perspective is the thing, isn’t it? It affects how we interpret EVERYTHING we see and hear. And, I will venture to say that NO ONE actually, really and truly, hears what another person is saying. Not really. Almost always there will be something ‘lost in translation’. Everyone reads (sometimes VERY wrongly) between the lines – and all of that reading is done with a distinct bias toward one’s own experience. No wonder communication is so difficult. No wonder relationships are so hard. Misunderstandings abound because it isn’t a question of Mars and Venus, women and men nonsense (afterall, the majority of the time I get grossly misunderstood it is by other women). It’s an issue of NONE OF US SPEAK THE SAME LANGUAGE! No two of us on this sphere speaks the very same thing and, therefore, understanding what people MEAN (uncoloured by YOUR standpoint) is extremely hard.

I don’t have any clever advice for this. I just wish more people were aware of it, and that those people who are aware of it would admit it. We can all endeavour to listen better to others and attempt to not add our slant to it but, first, that requires admitting we ALL have a problem with this. And, even if we all did that, it would still be a major challenge not to infer how we feel about things when we are listening to someone else share their feelings/ideas/story. We are all simply incomprehensible (to one degree or another) to each other. I believe it is only by the grace of God (whether you believe in Him or not) that we are able to communicate with each other at all. Humans are so very good at being selfish and self-absorbed and just plain excellent at getting it terribly wrong wrong wrong!

We can desire greater understanding – and that’s a noble desire. But, I have seen the people who claim to be the most understanding get it really very wrong because they are completely incapable of seeing past the framework of their own experience. We will only ever get anywhere with understanding others – having better relationships, etc – as we admit the problem and work to choose to stand in another person’s shoes. And, when our limitations force us to admit that we cannot stand in that other person’s shoes, then we need to be big enough to shut up. Because, we cannot judge what we do not understand.

 

Well, first blog post of 2013. I doubt it will be that popular. Afterall… who else is going to (really) understand it but me? 😉