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On Languages – A Grandmother By Any Other Name Is….?

I love languages. My own father speaks 8 languages. But that’s not a fair statement, because when my father was growing up, his family traveled a lot. Continue reading


I couldn’t resist. It’s Friday, a day that I’m usually occupied with preparing for Shabbos, running myriad errands, and getting my final paperwork into my work supervisor’s box. And yet here I am blogging. I had to get something down, and fast. Before I forget it. Before the inspiration runs out.

That is the pattern of communicating for me. I get ideas, and I jot them down. Sometimes in my notebook for a to-be-developed-later article. And other times on this blog.  It’s a good thing as a writer to do that. Ideas don’t fly away, and inspirations get used.  But sometimes what is good for one area, can be a flaw in another area. Writing can be tweaked and revised; words on paper can be edited and cut.

But, when we say things too fast, before thinking them through, or planning for how the other person will take it, we run into problems.  My close friends know that “yeah, Miriam is just venting; don’t take her too seriously. She’ll calm down later. She’ll write an article and figure it all out, or she’ll compose a song, or she’ll just forget about it. No worries!” But still, I try to curb that need to speak things out, and often I write it out in my notebook or process it, or let it ride, before speaking it out.

I have realized lately that we all have our styles and “languages” of communicating with speech. I have also noted that some other people I know speak quite a different “language” than I do, and my job in these relationships is to understand that language. One of these patterns is regarding punctuality and time management.

For example, when I invite someone to my home at 8:00 for dinner, I figure they will come to my home around 8 or 8:10. Maybe 8;15. If they are going to be later than that, I suppose they’d let me know. But I have learned over the years that for some people, “Come over at 8:00 to our house for dinner,” is translated in their mind as “Oh – we’d love to have you over for dinner. Please come at 8:45 or later. That would be great!”

That is what the speakers of the non-Miriam-language hear. Have you ever been to a wedding that was called for 5:30 pm, and when you arrived at 6:00 pm, you were the only ones there? Even the bride and groom had not arrived yet? The family of the bride and groom usually trickle in at around 7, maybe.

Some grandmothers (that would be me!) are famous for expressing things to their family), and others may need translating. How about this?

“What’s the matter with you? Can’t you put on a clean shirt on the child?” (uttered in supposed-English to English speaking adult child).

Grandmother-Speak Translation: “I love you so much and I really want you to look nice, so make sure the child looks nicely all the time  (read: when I’m around).”

I’m still not so sure that the latter translation is that different in tone than the previous one, but it somehow conveys a different message – slightly more positive and loving.

In short, there are many ways that we can communicate. But make sure when you speak to someone else, you are speaking the same language. If not, make sure to get a good dictionary and translate accordingly. You will be happy you did.


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