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Author Topic: Can you talk as well as your granny?  (Read 14051 times)

Offline Lmnre

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #50 on: 12/02/2013 18:28:17 »
If as you say there is less time for thought, then there is simply less thinking being done.
Yes, another multitasking fallacy tragedy.
 

Offline menageriemanor

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #51 on: 14/02/2013 22:31:50 »
If only going by usage in population, one word that is getting a thrashing, is infer, which seems to be used by half the population, as  imply.  At times, you have to ask if they mean imply. Both are very useful, in their own sense and I do wonder what word these people use when infer would be used.

I think syndrome lost in the opposite way, being read by many people, without the classics education that medical men had in past centuries, used by journalists with an English major background, picked up from tv/radio usage, with everyone taking the word for granted, no one using it in public broadcasting, ever checking, early on, whilst epitome, etc still hold out, syndrome has lost the classics history pronunciation, in the huge popularity it has had, in the last 70ish years.  That ship is long gone, docked in Fiji, in party mode.
 

Offline Ophiolite

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #52 on: 15/02/2013 01:25:57 »
Are you implying we have inferred the wrong meaning of the word? :)

@pantodragon - as someone skilled in linguistics, especially the lexical and semantic aspects, you will understand what I mean when I say your last few posts have been bollocks.
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #53 on: 15/02/2013 20:30:27 »
I suspect he's realised that he's been casting his pearls before swine here and moved to a high-level philosophy forum where he'll fit in much better.
 

Offline pantodragon

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #54 on: 16/02/2013 16:29:28 »


Pardon my frankness, but this is arrogant nonsense.  This may apply to an extent in spoken commuication, as if you hear a new word you can simply ask what it means.  If you're reading and you encounter a novel word, then "the way you know if you're using a word correctly is by observing if you have been understood or not" is irrelevant.  If I'm reading and I don't understand a term, I look it up.  Usually in a dictionary.

If you define words differently from other people, lets say "competition" and "cooperation" as examples, and simply expect people to understand and adopt your definition, then you're not a good communicator, and do not display "superior language skills". In fact, by not using accepted definitions of words (such as those definitions you find in a dictionary), you occlude meaning and create confusion.

Actually, my claim to exemplary linguistic skills is not my own but compliments paid to me by my publishers.  When I read, and come across a word I do not know, I usually ignore it.  In the context of the writing one can make a stab at the word.  Further reading and conversational use of the word sharpens up that initial guess.  Also, there is the situation when one is learning a foreign language.  In that case, I find looking up a dictionary not just tedious, but actually a hindrance to my picking up the language.

As to my redefining things, I suggest you read my comment further down re metaphor and simile.  Also, in the interests of clarity, it is common practice amongst philosophers to take commonly used words and seek a more precise and clearer definition.

As to dictionaries, amongst their many other iniquities, when I have explored them for the purposes of finding out about dictionaries, I have found them to be often wrong, so that if I used the definitions they gave me, I would certainly not be understood by anyone.  One should never allow "instruction manuals" and the like to get in the way of good communication.
 

Offline pantodragon

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #55 on: 16/02/2013 16:31:03 »

People with autism are not a homogeneous group and their experiences of this world are individual.  There is most certainly not an underlying common symptom such as "low awareness".

Rubbish.  If there was no common symptom, there would be no common name and no diagnosis.
 

Offline pantodragon

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #56 on: 16/02/2013 16:41:50 »

such as a person I've encountered who kept going on about his bowel when he thought it meant bladder. He got a lot of funny looks from people,

Well, if he got a lot of funny looks from people, but no one actually took the trouble to enquire further, then you’ve got an example of bad communication, and no body learns from that.


 
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meaning of a technical term .

Yes, jargon can be a difficulty, but again, just give yourself time and you’ll pick it up.



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Well, I'm still waiting to hear your superior definitions.

See comment below.
 

Offline pantodragon

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #57 on: 16/02/2013 16:43:46 »
By popular demand.........

Do you recognise metaphors when you see them?

The inability of people to identify and use a metaphor correctly is widespread.  Typically the terms metaphor and simile are confused: that is, they are treated as synonyms.  In fact, they are not.  Further, metaphors are being lost and everything is being reduced to a simile.  A simile is a relatively simple concept compared to a metaphor, and that points to the reason for this loss: human minds are degrading and are losing the sophistication to handle metaphor.


Some examples of similes:

Two people can be “as like as two peas in a pod”.  This means that they look very similar.
 
When someone is embarrassed, they sometimes say that they “blushed like a beetroot”.  This simile refers to colour: the red flush of embarrassment one might get if one has, say, committed a social faux pas.


Some examples of metaphors:

The first line of a Derek Mahon poem, A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford: Even now there are places where a thought might grow. 

Here the poet has used a metaphor.  He compares a thought to a plant, and this tells you something about how thoughts work. For example, thoughts, like plants, need to be watered.  So, a thought will grow in the mind if it is “watered” and it won’t grow if it is not.  The need to “water” the thought is the same as saying that the person needs some emotional commitment towards the thought (or idea), to have their heart in it, otherwise it will wither and die.  Also, thoughts, like plants, need time to grow to maturity; they also need to be “fed”.  If thoughts are given the right growing conditions they will fruit (ideas will come to fruition) or seed.  (Another expression which refers to thoughts as plants is to “plant an idea” in someone’s mind.) 


The two similes and the above metaphor are about plants.  A crucial distinction between simile and metaphor is that one can draw inferences from a metaphor whereas one cannot with a simile.   

The common expression, “food for thought”, is also a metaphor.  From it we can infer how the mind works.  So, like the body, our minds need food.  Moreover, our minds process that “food” in the same way as the physical equivalent.  “Food”, therefore, is accepted into the mind, where it is “chewed over” (“chewing the cud” is a familiar and related concept).  The next stage is “digestion”.  Whatever is good for you becomes nourishment, whereas whatever’s bad for you i.e. the waste, must be excreted.


Dream images also contain metaphors.   

Water is a common dream image and can appear in the form of fast flowing rivers, tsunamis or floods.  Images of water refer to emotions.  Consider a flood: like being caught in a flood waters, we can be overwhelmed by our emotions.  Like being caught in a flood, when emotions overwhelm us, our mind is devastated, we experience disorientation, we loose our memories, abilities and dreams.  Another feature of a flood is that it swamps the ground.  This is the psychological equivalent of saying that when overwhelmed by emotion and are trying to think, we have no solid ground to stand on.   

*************************

I have not yet found a dictionary or encyclopaedia – either on the internet or in a book – that explains the term metaphor correctly (and which does not confuse it with simile). 

Looking elsewhere to find out about metaphors may also draw a blank.  Poetry, for example, uses lots metaphors.  Poets ought to be able to use them oughtn’t they?  Generally, no.  I recently read a poetry book for English teachers, written by a published poet.  The book contained lots of ideas for lessons about teaching poetry to children, including the identification and use of metaphor.  None of the examples given in the book used metaphors correctly.  In fact, they were all similes, not metaphors.  The problem is not confined to school books either.  The student textbook for a university creative writing course that I read contained a large section on poetry.  Again, the author was a published poet.  Was the author able to correctly identify and use metaphors?  No.  Similes were used instead of metaphors.

Metaphors are also used in advertising – supposedly.  I heard an advertiser discuss an advert he had made to sell a car.  In it he used the image of a black panther.  The advertiser referred to this image as a “metaphor” for the car.  In fact, it was not.

In discussions with people about this subject, when I ask them what the difference between a metaphor and a simile is, I get two answers.  First: a metaphor is the same as a simile.  Second: a simile means “is like”; a metaphor means “is”.  Both of these are wrong.


Ok.  So what?  Does it matter that people can’t distinguish between these two terms?  Does it matter that people cannot use metaphors any more?  I think it does.

In the first instance, the loss of metaphor impoverishes language (and this loss is but one of many examples I could enumerate which contribute to this impoverishment).  Its loss is symptomatic of the reduction of language to “machine level” i.e. that which can be “understood” or processed by computers.  (I even have to change my accent to sound more like standard English in order to be recognised by one of those computers at the other end of the phone.  I have to speak r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w-l-y too.  Speaking in sentences is out of the question.  So too is the use of words with more than 2 syllables.  Metaphors?  Not in a million years!)  If our language is being reduced to that of machines, then it points to a degradation of the human mind.

Secondly, a metaphor is a vital tool for thinking (as is a simile).  If you can no longer identify and use metaphors, then you have lost another tool. To use a gardening analogy, the loss of linguistic tools would be the thinking/psychological equivalent of trying to look after your garden – mow the lawn, weed the borders, trim the hedge, prune the shrubs etc  -  using only a spade. 

Also, to use metaphor requires understanding of the concept encapsulated by it.  If you can’t use metaphor, then you have lost that understanding.  In addition, metaphors are a tool by which we reduce concepts or ideas to “a nutshell”.  One aspect of being able to use metaphor is the ability to pick out significant detail from the mass of insignificant detail – and this is something the writers of those dictionaries and encyclopaedias I mentioned earlier are clearly unable to do.

So, the simple truth of the matter is that you need to be able to use metaphor unless, that is, you are willing to suffer the consequences.  As you loose thinking tools, you become unable to think effectively.  If you can’t think, you descend into the nightmarish world of inarticulacy e.g. of anger and frustration at not being able to express your thoughts, as well as all sorts of other related psychological problems.  I mean, what if your doctor can’t think?  Your children’s teacher can’t think?  The politicians who run the country and make decisions on your behalf? Don’t you think there will be serious consequences for you if they can’t think?


There are other implications of being unable to identify and use metaphors.

Language is full of metaphor so if you can identify and understand the metaphors, they tell you all sorts of things about how your mind and how the world works.  One might suppose that since our language is rich in metaphor that people understood more in the past: they created the metaphors like “food for thought” because they understood more about how the mind works.  If you consider dreams important, and I contend that dreams are very important, then you need to be able to use metaphors.  Consider also Ancient Egyptian art which represents certain gods with animal heads – this, I contend, was metaphor.  If you do not understand it as metaphor then it seems trivial, like a child’s game.  But if you understand it as metaphor, then it is highly meaningful and is telling you a whole lot about the Ancient Egyptian mind and beliefs and so on.  So, if you don’t understand metaphor, you will completely misinterpret ancient history.

People also interpret myths routinely today, but if they don’t understand the significance of metaphor, don’t understand metaphor, then they don’t understand significance of the interpretations.  In fact, they will give them a non-metaphorical interpretation.

There are all sorts of undesirable consequences arising from the loss of metaphor.



 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #58 on: 16/02/2013 16:44:41 »
  When I read, and come across a word I do not know, I usually ignore it. 
Well, that's an approach that won't get you very far.
 

Offline pantodragon

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #59 on: 16/02/2013 16:48:06 »
If only going by usage in population, one word that is getting a thrashing, is infer, which seems to be used by half the population, as  imply.  At times, you have to ask if they mean imply. Both are very useful, in their own sense and I do wonder what word these people use when infer would be used.

I think syndrome lost in the opposite way, being read by many people, without the classics education that medical men had in past centuries, used by journalists with an English major background, picked up from tv/radio usage, with everyone taking the word for granted, no one using it in public broadcasting, ever checking, early on, whilst epitome, etc still hold out, syndrome has lost the classics history pronunciation, in the huge popularity it has had, in the last 70ish years.  That ship is long gone, docked in Fiji, in party mode.

You comment has served to remind me of another aspect to all this: the function of language is primarily to communicate.  When dealing with people, communication uis best served by attempting to understand what that person means when they use a certain word.  In other words, one tries to accomodate individual understandings rather than being a stickler for dictionary meanings.  The exception would be if one is arguing or discussing some issue when specific definitions may become important.
 

Offline pantodragon

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #60 on: 16/02/2013 16:50:12 »
I suspect he's realised that he's been casting his pearls before swine here and moved to a high-level philosophy forum where he'll fit in much better.

Oh what's the use?!!!  I don't know why I bother.
 

Offline Minerva

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #61 on: 16/02/2013 17:36:20 »
Oh what's the use?!!!  I don't know why I bother.

I wouldn't bother any more if I were you - I don't think anyone will mind.
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #62 on: 16/02/2013 23:33:47 »
Oh what's the use?!!!  I don't know why I bother.

I was simply trying to push you into expanding on your assertions to see if they held water. Now you have done so with a much better post than expected. The pearls are actually on view at long last.

human minds are degrading and are losing the sophistication to handle metaphor.

It would be difficult to prove that this is the case. When metaphors are initially used, people always have to think about them to understand what they mean, but the good ones catch on and become part of ordinary language, leading to them being used without any need for deep thought because they acquire permanent, direct meanings which are loaded straight into the mind through direct transformation - this means that by the time you encounter good metaphors in literature, you've already heard them hundreds of time before and they have completely lost their original power: they have become boring.

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Some examples of similes:

Two people can be “as like as two peas in a pod”.  This means that they look very similar.

Metaphor equivalent: they are two peas in a pod.

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When someone is embarrassed, they sometimes say that they “blushed like a beetroot”.  This simile refers to colour: the red flush of embarrassment one might get if one has, say, committed a social faux pas.

Metaphor equivalent: His face was a beetroot.

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Some examples of metaphors:

The first line of a Derek Mahon poem, A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford: Even now there are places where a thought might grow.

Simile equivalent: Even now there are places where a thought might develop like a plant growing.

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A crucial distinction between simile and metaphor is that one can draw inferences from a metaphor whereas one cannot with a simile.

A crucial distinction between a deep simile and a shallow simile, or a deep metaphor and a shallow metaphor, is that one can draw more inferences from a good simile or metaphor than a shallow one.

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I have not yet found a dictionary or encyclopaedia – either on the internet or in a book – that explains the term metaphor correctly (and which does not confuse it with simile).

Which should lead you to wonder if you've really got this right.

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Looking elsewhere to find out about metaphors may also draw a blank.  Poetry, for example, uses lots metaphors.  Poets ought to be able to use them oughtn’t they?  Generally, no.  I recently read a poetry book for English teachers, written by a published poet.  The book contained lots of ideas for lessons about teaching poetry to children, including the identification and use of metaphor.  None of the examples given in the book used metaphors correctly.  In fact, they were all similes, not metaphors.

What's missing is teaching people to use deep metaphors and similes rather than shallow ones. The nuts and bolts are taught as little more than nuts and bolts: we expect children to be able to recognise various devices so that they can name them in exams to score empty points, but there is no interest in teaching them to write good poetry or to develop the skills required to write novels. When it comes to poetry, the rules have even been thrown away and they are encouraged to write poems which might be taken for shopping lists.

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Metaphors are also used in advertising – supposedly.  I heard an advertiser discuss an advert he had made to sell a car.  In it he used the image of a black panther.  The advertiser referred to this image as a “metaphor” for the car.  In fact, it was not.

Going by your rules, it is a metaphor, and would still be a metaphor if you turned it into a simile. I visualise the panther hunting, accelerating towards its prey and closing in on it fast while the prey lacks the power to match the panther's rapid increase in pace - that tells me a lot about the implied performance of the car.

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In discussions with people about this subject, when I ask them what the difference between a metaphor and a simile is, I get two answers.  First: a metaphor is the same as a simile.  Second: a simile means “is like”; a metaphor means “is”.  Both of these are wrong.

Well, we have two rival theories here as to the correct meanings of the words. What you appear to have done is remove the actual technical distinction between similes and metaphors and replace it with a new distinction between shallow and deep comparisons.

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In the first instance, the loss of metaphor impoverishes language (and this loss is but one of many examples I could enumerate which contribute to this impoverishment).  Its loss is symptomatic of the reduction of language to “machine level” i.e. that which can be “understood” or processed by computers.  (I even have to change my accent to sound more like standard English in order to be recognised by one of those computers at the other end of the phone.  I have to speak r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w-l-y too.  Speaking in sentences is out of the question.  So too is the use of words with more than 2 syllables.  Metaphors?  Not in a million years!)  If our language is being reduced to that of machines, then it points to a degradation of the human mind.

No, it points to computers not being there yet, but it certainly won't take a million years before they are able to understand the deepest of metaphors. If language isn't being pushed to the limits in the way it was in the past, perhaps that has more to do with creative people working more with video and relying less on words to supply the magic. Brian Cox lets the visuals provide all the attraction, while he bathes in their reflected glory like a god (while delivering utterly banal statements which somehow manage to cram a minute's worth of information into every quarter of an hour of television programme).

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Secondly, a metaphor is a vital tool for thinking (as is a simile).  If you can no longer identify and use metaphors, then you have lost another tool. To use a gardening analogy, the loss of linguistic tools would be the thinking/psychological equivalent of trying to look after your garden – mow the lawn, weed the borders, trim the hedge, prune the shrubs etc  -  using only a spade.

The ability to think does not depend on metaphors - the ability to compare things is there in all of us (ignoring any medical conditions which may block this - I don't know of are any, but it may for all I know be a major component of some syndromes which render people severely retarded). What metaphors do is provide economical and fun ways of communicating ideas, but the same ideas can be thought through and communicated in other ways which simply state things exactly as they are.

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Also, to use metaphor requires understanding of the concept encapsulated by it.  If you can’t use metaphor, then you have lost that understanding.  In addition, metaphors are a tool by which we reduce concepts or ideas to “a nutshell”.  One aspect of being able to use metaphor is the ability to pick out significant detail from the mass of insignificant detail – and this is something the writers of those dictionaries and encyclopaedias I mentioned earlier are clearly unable to do.

It's just a trick of finding the most economical way to communicate an idea - it is often far better to do it with a few words instead of several paragraphs of technical description, but there often isn't anything available to use as a metaphor, which means you have to do it the long way, and importantly, if metaphors were necessary to enable thinking, such ideas would be beyond us due to the lack of suitable comparisons, but they aren't.

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So, the simple truth of the matter is that you need to be able to use metaphor unless, that is, you are willing to suffer the consequences.  As you loose thinking tools, you become unable to think effectively.

That isn't a simple truth: it's a simple assertion, and it's a wrong assertion which has spread far and wide as a meme. Don't exagerate the importance of metaphors: they are useful in communication, and fun too, but they make no useful contribution to thought. The nuts and bolts of thought are comparisons, as are the nuts and bolts of programming. The metaphor merely rides on the back of thought.

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If you can’t think, you descend into the nightmarish world of inarticulacy e.g. of anger and frustration at not being able to express your thoughts, as well as all sorts of other related psychological problems.  I mean, what if your doctor can’t think?  Your children’s teacher can’t think?  The politicians who run the country and make decisions on your behalf? Don’t you think there will be serious consequences for you if they can’t think?

There are severe limitations in the thinking of many people, and especially with the people who run the country/world as they shackle themselves with crude ideologies which hamper their thinking. Teaching people to use metaphors won't help, though it won't do any harm either. It's the systematic, rigorous application of logical reasoning that needs to be taught, but it's virtually impossible to find enough of the right kind of people to teach it, so it isn't going to be done until artificial intelligence reaches the point where it can do the job.

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Language is full of metaphor so if you can identify and understand the metaphors, they tell you all sorts of things about how your mind and how the world works.

They can help to take you down paths which you might not otherwise explore, which is useful if you aren't a good explorer, but they are not necessary and are often misleading - that is why in scientific papers you do not find avalanches of metaphors, whereas you do in literature because they are fun.

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One might suppose that since our language is rich in metaphor that people understood more in the past: they created the metaphors like “food for thought” because they understood more about how the mind works.

"Food for thought" isn't the most enlightening of metaphors - you do not eat ideas, nor do you get energy from them. This could actually be very damaging to your ability to think properly if you try to use this as any kind of mechanism for thinking. It is simply playing with comparisons here.

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If you consider dreams important, and I contend that dreams are very important, then you need to be able to use metaphors.

I have come up with many good ideas in dreams, though usually with faults in them which mean they don't work in the real world. As for metaphors in them, I can't say I've noticed any which do anything useful, but it's great if you are finding profound ideas in metaphors that appear in your dreams.

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Consider also Ancient Egyptian art which represents certain gods with animal heads – this, I contend, was metaphor.

Not unlike a car being compared with a panther.

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If you do not understand it as metaphor then it seems trivial, like a child’s game.  But if you understand it as metaphor, then it is highly meaningful and is telling you a whole lot about the Ancient Egyptian mind and beliefs and so on.  So, if you don’t understand metaphor, you will completely misinterpret ancient history.

If someone goes to the trouble of making massive figures with the heads of animals, no one's going to write that off as something trivial - it's obvious that there's a lot of symbolism going on, but everyone's left having to guess what it was about unless it's explained in ancient writings.

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People also interpret myths routinely today, but if they don’t understand the significance of metaphor, don’t understand metaphor, then they don’t understand significance of the interpretations.  In fact, they will give them a non-metaphorical interpretation.

Unless you were there at the time when the myths were created, you're left to make guesses like everyone else, though your guesses are likely to be better than those of the average person because most people in today's shallow culture couldn't give a monkey's. You do have to ask yourself though how much of the meaning you imagine things have is actually intended and how much is simply a product of your imagination. A human figure with the head of a cat could be interpreted in many different ways: lazy; a vicious hunter; independent; hydrophobic; etc. - you can take your pick, but unless you actually know the right answer (perhaps by being part of the culture that created the metaphor), you're just guessing.
 

Offline menageriemanor

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #63 on: 18/02/2013 13:28:38 »
A percentage of times, the actual meaning of someone who uses imply/infer can be established, but sometimes, you have to ask.  Do you say nothing, if they are using infer for imply? 

To me, that is like letting someone walk out of a lavatory with their skirt in their underwear.  I don't correct patronisingly, but ask if they mean imply, and explain how I would imply and how I would infer.  Otherwise, what do I say when I want to say I infer? Or they infer?  I don't tell them they must use it, just that they would confuse people, who do know. It's the least I can do for my old friend, infer.  I would hope someone would tell me, even if only to tell me the story of a word, if I've got it wrong, or even the archaic history of a word, as long as I wasn't worried about an appointment.  If I sat on a train and got a language/any  expert willing to share info, except for fishing, hunting, skinning, etc., if I had no hugely important reading to do, I'd love it.  Tho you always have to check how trustworthy the source was...

Similarly, swap favorite book authors and titles, and why.

I still prefer Can you SPEAK as well as your granny, but my granny wouldn't know so many new words, given she died in the 50s.  Would I have a better quality speech if I said orf for off or goff for golf? Would I get a serious job?  Archaic, but entertaining but could be divisive.  I love knowing about archaic speech patterns, that give away a family's politics or whereabouts, in earlier centuries.  Those are disappearing very quickly.

Is it good or bad to have regional differences, far more common, pre tv?  I loved them.  I loved lists of regional words, specialist words,  near lost,  eg heaffed he affed long e, short a, for sheep that could be turned out on the moors in Yorkshire, and home themselves, at night. I have Oz heaffed sheep, tho not sent to Yorkshire...  Yet using those words once caused judgement about education and background. Whatever decade, speech is judged.

If I had the purposeful speech patterns of the 50s, would I also have the judgemental attitudes?  I'd give up all those lovely words in a second, if Alan Turing's well spoken and moralistic judge spoke like a modern bin man or average social worker, and had their kindly hearts.



 

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Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #63 on: 18/02/2013 13:28:38 »

 

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