Behaviour Conversation Analysis Meaning of Words

Hello and Hello are different

We all have bits of talk that we have picked up from listening to the people around us. They are so familiar to us that we don’t have to think about them or their meaning. A lot of this phatic talk is to do with greetings and showing that you are pleased to meet people. If someone we know well fails to reply we at once ask ourselves “Have I done something to upset her or didn’t she hear me?” Which shows just how important greetings are. The tone of voice also matters.

A long time ago when I was at university our Spanish department room was very small and right at the top of a wide spiral staircase. One day, when it was time for my years’ lectures, a steady stream of us made our way up and passed another group coming down rather faster. I was saying “Hello” over and over again. When we got to the top of the stairs the girl just behind spoke to me.

“It’s easy to see who you like and who you don’t” she said. “What do you mean?” I replied. She laughed. “Every one of your “Hellos” was different. They varied from just above a whisper to a hearty laughing tone.

I learned two things. One, that I was not aware of this at all. I have always formed strong feelings for or against the people I meet but I had never realised how much I give away by the warmth or not of my greeting. The second thing I learned was that my friend was an acute observer of what was going on around her, especially people she liked. This made her one of a very small group of my friends. I also notice such minute things but I didn’t notice them in myself.

People who are sensitive to fine details are usually those who turn into writers. Without realising it they accumulate a wealth of small events with people and nature and they never forget them. When I began to work as a psychotherapist I had no difficulty at all in getting into a state of rapport with my clients. I thought that was normal in my profession. Other people who had trained with me began to ring me up after a few months to ask me how I was getting on. “Fine!” I said, They were amazed because they found it difficult to talk to complete strangers. Once again I realised that something I took for granted was quite rare. By the same token, when I first bought a computer when I was studying for my PhD, I found it very difficult indeed. My two sons and two grandsons kept telling me how easy it was much to my chagrin. I am now on my fourth computer and at last I have mastered all the basics I need for my work but I still quail when something goes wrong and I feel helpless.

I came to the conclusion that this sort of thing is part of why people do not get on together. Yet it can be overcome easily when both parties accept the simple fact that no two people are alike in everything. Like a lot of things that appear obvious, many people won’t accept them.

Behaviour Meaning of Words Your Dark Side

Understand Your Dark Side

Dreams have always fascinated people because they feel that something is happening to them over which they have no control. There have always been people who will try to interpret other people’s dreams. The fact is that dreams are made by the people who dream them. They are the only ones who know what they mean but they don’t consciously know.

I have been trying to interpret my own dreams for many years. When I got it right I always knew and when I got it wrong I also knew, because there are many aspects of ourselves that remain unconscious until we work on them. Sometimes we can get help from a psychotherapist or someone who knows you very well, but if you can, it is better to find out for yourselves. It is a worthwhile task because the better we know ourselves the more power we have over our lives, especially in decision-making.

Freud was very interested in dreams. Quite a few of his ideas turned out to be wrong later: in particular, wishful thinking. It appears that we don’t dream for what we want but for who we are.

Here is a short list of some characteristics of dreams:

Everyone in our dreams is ourself, just as when we are awake we see others through our own lenses.

Our dreams are directly related to what we unconsciously noticed the day before. We all do this when we talk with other people. We don’t just talk but also may have deep emotions brought about by the talk. Have you noticed that you react very differently to different people? How we are affected teaches us more about ourselves. Dreams can do this, but it is all in a coded form. The unconscious won’t give up its secrets so easily.

Time and places get distorted. I once had a dream just like a story, about me of course. When I woke up I remembered everything vividly and I felt as though a year had gone by. I gleaned rich material from that dream.

Violent and frightening dreams are not uncommon. When we remember that most of us are taught to be ‘good’ one way or another it is hardly surprising that we tend to push our anger and hatred underground.

Dreams set them free. We all need to accept every aspect of ourselves. We are less likely to behave badly and criticise others if we have acknowledged our own dark side.

One of Freud’s best findings was how humour works in dreams, especially puns. Here is a short story:

Arthur, a gay man and Jane, a straight woman, very quickly became very good friends. They went out together and spent hours talking about music and books. One day Arthur said to Jane “This must be hard for you because you are attracted to men ad I am not attracted to women.”

Jane felt angry. That night she had a dream:

They were having dinner out together. Arthur chose plaice. Jane said she would like plaice too. “No” said the waiter “There is no plaice for you here.” The message of this dream is unusually clear.

How To Use Words Meaning of Words

There's Soup and then there's Soup!

Korzybski’s book “Science and Sanity” was published in 1933 and is still in print. His theme is ‘the misuse of words can make us sick.’ He is very knowledgeable in many different fields. If you only want one book on words and their use this is the one that will give you most satisfaction. I’ve read it several times. What we must remember is that “The word is not the thing itself”.

When my grandsons were 8 and 9 years old, I went to have lunch with them and my daughter. I asked her to make soup. I took with me four pieces of paper with ‘soup’ written on them.

I took four plates and spoons out and put them on the table. I placed the pieces of paper in each one. “Now boys you can eat your soup”.

They looked at me, then at the plates and then at their mother. “Eat your soup up” I said. They were dumbstruck. Finally they said “What soup?” “It is on your plates” I said. There was a short silence and my grandsons could say nothing. I took up my paper and put it in my mouth. “Mmm, it doesn’t taste a bit like soup. But the paper tells us it is soup, doesn’t it?” Finally the penny dropped and the boys laughed. They got the message, the name of the soup is not the same as the soup itself. I removed the paper and put the real soup into the four bowls. The boys roared with laughter. This is the kind of experiment that teaches children and makes them laugh at the same time: always a good combination.

Another day I was working with a client who had recovered from a severe illness after an operation for cancer. She had been looking forward to Christmas. “How did it go?” I said. She replied “I was so disappointed!” I tried to understand. She struggled to say why. “I wanted this Christmas to be this way and that way but it wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted it to be the ultimate Christmas!” I said “The ultimate Christmas?” “Yes” she said. My mind clicked . “Ah I see. The ultimate Christmas could mean the best one you ever had, or it might have been your last one.” This is another example of enantiodromia, where one word can have two contrary meanings.” YES!” she said loudly. “Why did that upset you? I said. “Well. I wanted everyone there to realise that this might have been my last Christmas, but they all carried on the same as usual.”

Two weeks later she came to see me again. She said she thought about it and said yes, she had enjoyed Christmas very much. She realised that she couldn’t expect her close friends and family to be as excited as she was after her recovery. No-one else could understand exactly the depth of her experience. Moreover it is quite understandable that they might have thought it would be tactless to bring up the feelings about her illness again.

Meaning of Words

Potato Found In Translation!

Power, the ability to do and act, is the first meaning given of a very long list in my Complete Wordfinder. ‘Do’ and ‘act’ are also very long. The shorter the list, the fewer meanings are given for the word. Since I am a linguist and know French and Spanish well, I am now learning German, partly for fun and partly because I have a German friend with whom we have translated each others books about our childhood experiences in our respective countries when we were children growing up in World War Two. In March we have both been invited to Leipzig for the publication of our two books put together as one. We shall be talking to readers and signing books and telling them something about our respective childhoods. I am studying German every day so that I can at least be able to say some things to the German audience, even if I find it hard to understand what they say to me.

I’ve bought one particularly interesting dictionary, German into English and English into German. It is very useful because it is also, in a small way, a thesaurus, which provides everyday phrases in both countries that reveal useful differences. Because it is much smaller than my other English thesaurus I presume that all the words that are in common usage by most people are in my German one. So it helps me to learn the more frequently used words and phrases.

What is particularly interesting is that in English we have many more phrases using the word ‘do’ than in Germany, where they have other alternatives to our ‘do’. For instance, The German for ‘do’ is ‘tun’. But we English use ‘do’ more often. Here is an example. In England we say “What are you doing?” In Germany they say “Was machst du”which translated literally is “What are you making?” If you are a translator changing German into English, you cannot write that down, you must write “What are you doing?”

In every country speaking the same language people love to give different meanings to words. But, surprisingly enough, there is a uniformity in all this that makes it easy for people to understand each other. Even a different emphasis on a syllable can change meaning.

When we first moved to South America my husband and I had recently gained a degree in Hispanic Studies. This meant that we could speak correct castillian Spanish and had good knowledge of South American history and literature. The Venezuelans were delighted because we could speak to them easily. But saying is not the same as listening. It took us several months to learn what they were saying to us including our getting used to a different accent, a number of new words and a different sense of humour. Not to mention all the cultural differences.

One of the Englishmen there had just become a father for the first time. He came running into a group of friends straight from the hospital. He shouted out “Soy papa! Soy papa!” All the Venezuelans burst into laughter. The rest did not. Why? The same word, papa, has two meanings. One has the stress on the first syllable and the other on the second. Our friend was shouting out with great excitement “I’m a potato! I’m a potato! The word for father is papa but the accent is on the second syllable, the other word, papa, meaning potato had its accent on the first syllable.

Translators beware!