Monday, 25 February 2013

The gall of the woman...

A few months ago, my mum visited one of her sisters, partly just to drop by, but also partly because of health issues. Last year wasn't a good one for our family when it came to health, what with one thing and another. Compared to a lot of the family, I am fairly distant, both physically and emotionally, so it was during a phone conversation with my mother a few days later that this came to light for me.

For British people in general and our family in particular (as a running joke), the weather is a strong topic for discussion. Therefore, most conversation openings between me and Mum will run along the lines of greeting, weather, health.
"Hi, Mum, what's the weather like up by you? How're you feeling today?"
Scintillating stuff, I know.

Now, I don't know about you, but I find that when you have chats with people you know very well and have done for a long time, you tend to develop a sort of conversational shorthand. You will also take verbal shortcuts which will baffle outsiders, yet will be patently clear to anyone in the know.
However, there is a subtle danger here.
If either or both of the people in the conversation are feeling a little tired or are being distracted by something or other, then even long-established cues may be missed and confusion will reign.
Take, for example, this snippet from my mother as she tells me of her visit to her sister.

Now, if you did the same as me, you read straight through that without blinking and then thought, "hang on a minute..."
Of course, my aunt wasn't suffering from a meteorological disorder, it was just that I had heard two separate elements of the conversation as one sentence. As it turned out, Jackie was only in for a check-up - she wasn't about to have a weather vane installed...