I didn’t believe in the language barrier until I took an introductory Spanish class in high school. I had hoped to learn about Spanish culture and its rich history, but I could never actually learn anything because my teacher refused to speak English. Sure, she’d throw out the occasional “yo” or “los blue jeans,” but that was just to tease me. Most of her words were complete gibberish. It was almost like she was speaking another language entirely.
I suffered through a quarter of this torture before finally flunking out of school and embarking on a career as a rodeo clown. I’ve since lost both of my hands in separate goring incidents. I don’t know what this has to do with language, but I thought you might like to know that I have hooks for hands. When I get an itch, I rub up against a tree. I’d like to actually scratch myself, but I can’t do that because I’d tear out my intestines.
The plus side of having no hands is that you tend to have a lot of free time on your hands. I’ve used this free time to think about the language barrier and have come to the conclusion that many people are presently incapable of communicating effectively. I don’t blame this on foreign languages. It’s actually pretty easy to communicate with foreigners, simply use the universal languages: mathematics and love. Hand the foreigner a piece of paper that says “1 + 1 = 2.” Then stick your tongue in their ear. This strategy has worked well for me. I only wish communicating with fellow English speakers were so simple.
One time my ex-girlfriend told me that she never wanted to see me again and that she was converting to lesbianism. I interpreted this as “Camp outside my house in a sleeping bag until I finally work up the courage to call the police. After the police arrive, I will watch them zap your defiant ass with tasers while you swipe at their buttocks with your creepy hook hands.” It’s pretty easy to understand how I could’ve been confused by her words. Surely I’m not alone in having these kinds of communication difficulties.
Maybe it all started in elementary school. Remember recess? The boys and girls each played different games. The boys played football and beat each other up. The girls, well I don’t remember exactly what the girls did because I was too busy getting beaten up. I’m pretty sure they weren’t hanging out with the boys. I’m also pretty sure that this sexual segregation persisted throughout middle school and high school. You know what I’m talking about, girls in one circle and boys in the other.
This segregation seemed innocent at the time, but it may have caused divergent evolution. Perhaps the boys developed one dialect while the girls developed another. This would explain why we sometimes fail to pick up on the nuances and the subtext of the opposite sex’s speech. You probably haven’t camped outside an ex-lover’s house with the desperate hope that she’ll renounce her homosexuality and take you back, but I bet you’ve experienced your fair share of miscommunication.
I’d like to think that this miscommunication is a byproduct of two distinct languages that arose from the unique childhood experiences of each sex, but I’ve become convinced that our communication problems are a result of fundamental biological differences between the two sexes. I suppose I could try to find a solution that might allow for improved communication, but we seem to be getting along okay despite the occasional embarrassing mishap.
Besides, do you really expect me to do something productive? I have frickin’ hooks for hands. I’m not going to change the world. I’m going to dress up as a pirate, drink a few gallons of rum, berate a few wenches and pass out in a pile of hay. If you see me in this unconscious state and you need to speak with me, talk to the parrot on my shoulder. His command of English is crude, but he does know a lot about love and mathematics.
Daily Nexus columnist Nick Pasto has an extra-large keyboard to accommodate his hooks.