Friday, May 27, 2011
He went, like, you know, "That's the way, you know, I kind of, like, speak."
I speak exactly the same way I write. My writing, as you probably can guess, is merely a transcription of my thoughts. What I didn't realize is that my speaking is the same. Hmmm.
This brings me to actual transcription, which I've been doing a little bit of in recent months. I have to admit I've been appalled by the way highly educated people speak. Folks have made fun of Sarah Palin, but the truth is, at least judging from the transcription I've been doing, most people speak as poorly as she does or worse. The transcriptions of interviews one reads in magazines, newspapers, and, now, on the Web, have been heavily edited.
The only - only - person whom I've transcribed in recent memory who has spoke clearly was a man who was at least seventy years old. He was probably schooled in learning to speak clearly. We seem to no longer do this.
When I was very young, my mother corrected me when I used the word "like." My father told me time and again that slang was a sloppy way of communicating and thinking. Though my parents' admonitions annoyed me, I'm now quite grateful for them.
I'm in the midst of transcribing an interview right now, and I needed a break. Transcribing sentences that have almost no structure is slow going, and I start to become confused, and even a bit ticked off, because most of the people I'm transcribing are authority figures for whom communication is part of their job. When a person inserts "you know" and "like" before and after every third word, it's hard to keep track of the logic of the sentence. Additionally, using the word "you" instead of "I," which seems quite common, is confusing in print. Using the word "go" or "went" instead of of "say" and "said" is even more confusing. Are you confused? Here's an example that I've made up (for clarity, and to protect the guilty and innocent alike):
I was, like, y'know, thinking it over, and I went, "Hey, wait a minute. I, like, didn't know." You know, when we go like "It's hard to understand this stuff," you know, it's like a rough thing. My brother, he said, you know, he like went "I kind of found it hard, too," and like, I sort of found some, you know, like, some sort of kind of comfort in that, you know, idea. My parents were like relieved and my mother went "I'm happy. I'm happy that you know finally like you know found yourself."
That is typical of the people I've been transcribing.
If you had trouble figuring it out, here's what it would look like after it had been edited for clarity:
I was thinking it over and I said to myself, "I don't know." When one thinks "It's hard to understand this stuff," it's rough. My brother said, "I found it hard, too." I found some comfort in that. My parents were relieved. My mother said, "I'm happy. I'm happy that you found yourself."
That made sense, and the person interviewed sounds intelligent, but that is not what was said. I think it's important to note that. When we listen to a person who speaks in this way, we filter out all the "garbage words," but shouldn't we know how to speak without using them?
I know I sound, like, old-fashioned. Sloppy speaking habits have been the bugaboo of the older generation for generations. However, I'd venture to guess that for at least one generation, most parents and teachers have stopped correcting, for they don''t know any other way to communicate. This is how language changes. Perhaps it doesn't make any difference if we speak this way or not. That's an interesting question, and I do not know the answer.
*I was also told I didn't say "um," which surprised me. I know I used to say "um" frequently, and mentioned this. I was told that I'm quiet when I'm obviously thinking of what to say. This explained for me why some people get frustrated with me. I've been told to "hurry up," or have had people get angry with me for not being quick enough in my responses. Why does one have to be so fast? Isn't it better to consider what one's answer is? Recently, when I didn't answer a question fast enough, it was perceived that I didn't want to do something. This couldn't have been further from the truth. I realized that the person who had jumped to that conclusion makes all sorts of guesses about what he believes I'm thinking when I'm not fast enough on the draw verbally. Oh my. People do not like silence. They also want everything right now. Sorry, but Julie brand ATM does not work all that quickly.
Image note: I rather liked this image, which I saw on the website for the Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute.