My apartment is currently sandwiched between two building sites where cranes, pile drives, heavy lifting machinery, concrete mixers and hundreds of scaffold and construction workers are creating a new 52 storey tower and adding a further eleven floors to an old one that already stands 30 storeys high!
One thing that has fascinated me during this work is the fact that when the most hefty of objects – like rolled-steel joists – are suspended even only a few inches from the ground, a gloved fore-finger can deflect the place of its landing or, by being wagged at a crane driver way up in the sky, cause it to be removed completely. Once set down, uncoupled and cemented in, however, only legions of fore-fingers would have the power to shift it.
This being the case, any uncertainty about whether it is being set down in the right place halts proceedings while the site manager is called in to assess the situation and avoid any unintended consequences misplacement could trigger within the finished structure.
The constant checking and re-checking ‘get-togethers’ that I see going on, made me think how important it is for those of us who have to present written directives, to be absolutely sure that the words we use really do stand for the meaning we intend when they are set in place.
Think for a moment of the index finger as a metaphor for the tongue: able to wag words into spoken sentences, but always able to deflect, twist, reiterate, reinstate ideas or even – at the very last moment – hold still so as not to state those ideas at all.
Now, think of those same words when set down on a page or a screen where, once cemented in place, there they remain.
Though speech is always be driven by thought there is also, always a possibility of deflecting attention away from what is being said at the very last minute as – even if someone claims to be able to recount those words verbatim – spoken words just drift away into the atmosphere.
Once set down as hard copy or recorded, however, those same words become the very structure of our meaning.
These days we get regular news items about people who want words removed from Google and other search engine sites because they feel discomfited by them: as well as people who claim they miss spoke!
Hmmm! I would claim miss-thinking is what causes the problem.
Any speaker who does NOT hold racist, sexist or any other sort of antisocial thoughts is in no danger of suddenly constructing sentences related to such matters. WHY? because that speaker’s memory bank contained no such elements in the first place.
Only words related to consciously held ideas pop out of a mouth without forethought. Anyone making a genuine slip of the tongue corrects themselves instinctively and immediately, often on the same breath.
And the moral of this story …?
Never allow sloppy workmanship to undermine the crux of an argument: for – as in the case on any construction site – its deficiencies may eventually topple the whole structure.
Janet Howd© 13th Dec, 2021