Here’s a cool thing

A principle I currently believe is important, and which I know I’ve felt the same way about for at least ten years, because I distinctly remember saying this in a discussion in my tenth grade social studies class:

Words mean what people think they mean.
Symbols represent what people think they represent.

Learning about the origins of words, symbols, slogans can really expand your understanding of the context they came from, and I think it’s really important, but that doesn’t mean the original meaning is the Real meaning. The Real Meaning is what most people currently understand it to mean.

You can educate people about changes in meaning, and sometimes you can use a word in an uncommon or non-current sense if you explain that’s what you’re doing, but you can’t make language stop changing.

I was thinking about this in response to a post about person-first lanugage, and then I thought to myself, “Wait, I remember saying “symbols mean what people think they mean” in Mr. K’s social studies class…”

This is not a transparent post




To clarify.

I just got an email announcement about an event I wouldn’t be going to anyway, so it doesn’t really matter, but the theme of the event is Transparency as an ideal for communication in relationships. Like, constantly being as open as possible about whatever you’re feeling and thinking at the moment.

I can’t imagine being able to live up to that ideal.

It takes me so long to figure out how I feel about things, much less express them clearly to someone else. And I really don’t think I can rush that process. There have been times when I got into trouble by settling on a Nice Clear Explanation of something before I really understood it, and then felt unable to contradict it when I realized that it didn’t really fit.

Mental filters

A while ago I saw a discussion among some autistic people on Tumblr, about dealing with slurs and other Things Not To Say when you have communication problems. This is a separate post because it’s not really related to the last one, this doesn’t have anything to do with my opinions about how slurs should be discussed. It’s just interesting to me as a point of comparison for my own communication problems are like.


One of the people on this post was describing how at one point they tried very hard to keep up with all sorts of Things Not To Say, until they realized that because they were trying to remember and weigh all these different things, it was costing them dramatically more effort to say anything. They decided they had to stop putting so much pressure on themself to say everything Correctly in order to save their overall communication abilities and spoon levels.

So, for me too, thinking about these things does take extra time and effort. There are some words I’ve been using/not-using for long enough that it’s a habit, but there are plenty of others where I initially phrase something one way, and then catch myself and think “No, wait, it’s disrespectful to use that word that way” or whatever. It’s a conscious thought process that takes time. Also sometimes there are situations where there is no obviously better way to say something, and that sucks.

But, it has never occurred to me to try to stop thinking about these things, because while the effort I spend on these things is not zero, it is completely negligible and irrelevant in comparison to the baseline amount of effort I put into wording anything I expect a lot of people to read. It does not make writing meaningfully harder for me. It is a few drops in a big bucket of just plain trying to express the ideas in my head clearly and concisely and in an order that makes sense.

When I do less-effort, less-polished writing, it’s usually the conciseness and the sequencing and the too-many-clauses sentences (and the hyphenated phrases like that one) that I let go of.

Brain + ears = ?

You’re probably familiar with the thing where you hear/see a word while speaking/writing/typing and accidentally say/write/type what you heard/saw instead of what you meant to say. (Like this.)

I hadn’t noticed it before but apparently I can do this without noticing the out-of-place word?


Today I was captioning something while Sparkly was watching TV. Somehow my brain transposed the word “duckies” (there were rubber ducks on the TV show) into the video-to-be-captioned that I was trying to pay attention to, and I typed it in the middle of my transcript, and for a good thirty seconds, I really thought that it had been part of the video. I didn’t realize what had happened until I noticed that the people on Sparkly’s TV show were still talking about ducks.

A while ago I was, again, half-listening to a TV show, and apparently I heard Sparkly say something about the TV show and thought someone in the show had said it.

Precariously Verbal 3

I ended that last post without really explaining the thesis, didn’t I.

My point was that these things:

1. The authority-figures-dealing-with-kids dynamic of “Why did you do that? Why did you do that potentially dangerous thing? Why did you break the rules? Why didn’t you do your homework?”

2. My various difficulties putting my thoughts into words

3. The times when I more-or-less managed to explain myself and knew that my explanation did not explain anything, it only made me sound stupid and/or crazy

contributed to me feeling really inadequate and ashamed of myself, even though those questions were well-intended.

Related rambling below the cut. (Sparkly, maybe don’t read this.)

Continue reading “Precariously Verbal 3”

Precariously Verbal 2

So, here’s a thing: My parents are awesome people. Genuinely. I don’t know if ideas like “attachment parenting” were common when I was little, but from what I’ve seen of those ideas, my parents would agree with them.

They were so strongly against the normalization of violence that they were reluctant to let me play with water squirt guns if they looked too much like real guns. My father disapproved of Pokemon, because Pokemon are supposed to be living creatures that are like pets, and then you make them fight each other? That’s not ok, why would you do that? (I never really wanted┬áto get into Pokemon, so I thought it was kind of endearing that he cared so much about fictional magical animals.)

Corporal punishment was completely out of the question, and not only that– I can count the number of times I’ve heard my mother either curse or even just raise her voice in anger on one hand.

Gentle describes everything about my upbringing, I believe, not only the outward actions I’ve described but also in subtext and intent. I was sometimes worried about disappointing my parents, but I was never afraid of angering them or of being punished. I never felt unsafe because of them.

The only problem is, their gentle and well-meaning way of dealing with my childhood misbehavior often involved asking me to explain why I did things. So they could understand. So they could help. And I don’t want this to sound like I think they weren’t sincere, because I believe they were, and I don’t want to suggest that this is always a bad strategy, because it would probably work for some children, but for me, it didn’t work.

(to be continued when I’m less tired)

Precariously verbal 1

Related to this post and this post.

Arguments– or not even arguments but debates, disagreements, conversations in which people are asserting contradictory things– are like rooms full of obstacles, in my mind. Stuff piled on the floor, stuff hanging from the ceiling. Pathways of logic, or argumentative positions I could take, are gaps between the obstacles that are big enough to fit through.

Deciding what to say– because it’s not just saying what I think, there’s a difference between what I believe is true, and what’s provable, and what’s relevant to the other person’s position– is like solving a maze, the slow way. I work my way down each likely-looking path until I argue myself into a corner, and then I backtrack to the last branch and try again, rinse, repeat, until I have something that I believe is true, and that fits into what the other people have been saying.

That’s important to me: what I say should be an actual response, it should lead from the other person’s position to mine instead of just being a tour of my position. Maybe most people don’t see that as a problem; for me, the difference between a statement and a response or conversation is very important, and “conversations” or “arguments” that are actually a bunch of not-really-related statements are very confusing for me. I’ve seen people spend so much time arguing and getting nowhere because they don’t realize that they’re defining words in different ways. That dissonance really bothers me, and I don’t want to contribute to it.

So, anyway, to make an argument I feel my way through this maze of ideas. It takes time. It’s a pretty complex thing to hold in my mind, and writing out every idea I try and discard would take even more time. Add the work of trying to create a specific tone and wondering how I sound on top of that, add assorted stress if it’s an emotional topic for me– both those things mean it takes even longer.

Then I refresh the page, and there are ten more comments, and this is why I don’t normally discuss serious topics on Facebook.

I watched a movie yesterday and then my brain went pffffftlfp (imagine a balloon with a hole in it)

so I wrote 2000 words of planning a new plotline for one of my old rp characters?

I know a few people who do this sort of thing– “brain fog type feelings = open box of ideas you’ve been mulling over, empty onto page” but I didn’t think my brain worked like that. Apparently it does.