Are You Attributing Tone, Sheila?

Huh.  Funny dude.  I would never attribute tone, particularly in the case of sports.

Yes, I was discussing sports.  No, no, it’s okay, Mum: it was in the context of writing.  No need for the cardiac arrest.

The conversation went something like this (we were talking about the fliers for the upcoming reading):

Anonymous Sports Writer: I’m tempted to irritate Philadelphia fans this season by referring to them as the Fliers.  But using that term actually lends the team more, not less, dignity.  Because Flier is the major domo term, really. According to those that ought to know.  You know.  Of course you know.

Me: Like I’d know a ******** thing about naming a sports team. :p  I’m only guessing it’s a sports team ’cause you’re talking about it.

ASW: You have retained enough to **** with the jersey-wearers.

Me: You say “jersey-wearers” like it’s a species of sub-primordial slime.

ASP: Are you attributing tone, Sheila?

Me: Never.  Was assuming, based on your noun-creation.

It’s true… okay, maybe I attributed a little of my affection for sports, but mostly it’s because he was messing with the language.  Certainly, in my family, the English language was sacred when one was being serious.  For instance, I was never told to stop fighting with my sisters in any other terms than “stop fighting with your sisters”.  However, if I was being told to, say, clean something (cleaning was a fairly inconsequential activity in our house), the terminology might include archaic words like bathe or cleanse or dampen followed by thyself or thine pigsty of a room.  Accents and dialects were also thrown around: worsh them dishes, if’n you pleases.  If the language was messed-with, you knew you had a little leeway; if not, you’d best hop to it.

The activity of verbing – or, in my friend’s case, nouning – makes me laugh.  Literally.  I assume that people who use the term referencing must be making a joke.  ‘Cause if you weren’t joking, you’d speak in a commonly understood manner, no?  Or, perhaps you were serious in that you didn’t want me to listen to the rest of your sentence, but instead wanted me to tune you out while I deliberate your meaning: make reference to, or refer to?

Okay, I can tune you out, no problem.

Last night, I bought a copy of (yes, I know, 20 years too late) Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue.  I’m thinking, as I read about etymology and pidgin and creole languages, that this is all fine but what about the recipient?  Use any word you like, but there’s no guarantee the other person is going to understand you.  Maybe they don’t speak your language, or maybe they’re deaf, or maybe they have some cognitive processing difficulty, or maybe they’re just stupid.

Or maybe they come from a sports-deprived culture where jersey-wearer must be an insult, ’cause no sane person would wear a sports jersey.

‘Cepting, of course, a van Persie jersey during the World Cup.  That’s different.  He’s Dutch.

Language is awesome.  But so are all the other methods of communication, the ones we don’t really acknowledge.  And the perspectives on communication.  I can never be sure how someone is going to relate to my writing, because I don’t know every aspect of every person from their birth.  Will their loathing of the word loathe attribute tone?  Will their devoutly atheistic upbringing make them bristle at “Oh, my god”?  Will someone fall in love with one of my characters who bears the same name as the reader’s first True Crush?

It happens.

One response to “Are You Attributing Tone, Sheila?

  1. Pingback: Create Your Own Crazy « The English Major’s Blog

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