talk like a caveman

Not long ago, I was discussing misspeaking with a colleague.  It’ a big topic where I work, since most of the students in our program have language related disabilities.  Consequently, there are a lot of misproductions in both spoken and written language.  My background – which includes way too many years in a cognitive psych PhD program, way too many years in a Linguistics PhD program, and growing up with my sister who almost certainly has CAPD – has prepared me to take these in stride…when they come from other people.  Not when they come from me.

I’m one of those language people.  I don’t speak 20 languages.  But I do break down linguistic structure like nobody’s business, and always have.  I learned out to read and write at an early age (doing both by 4, with some “creative” spellings and letter forms…I thought the number of horizontal lines on a capital E was set at three or more, my Es often looked like combs standing on their ends.  I also inverted lower case b and d a lot).  I used to read dictionaries for fun as a little kid.  I’d get giddy looking up etymologies of words.  To balance out all that boastfulness, let me add that I suck (outloud) at math.  I transpose numbers and functions.  I pick up math concepts which are presented through calculations and equations like molasses goes uphill in January.  Also, I am not musically inclined, although since 2005 my brain’s been on permanent iPod shuffle much of the time.  Not sure what that’s about.  Anyhow, just because there’s music in my head doesn’t mean I can play it, sing it (well), or even reliably tell if certain chords differ.

Alright, so that’s a long walk to tell you that I’m not simply boastful and think I rock at everything.  I’m just good at language.

And yet, when I am premenstrual, I talk like a caveman.  Not only do I have word finding problems – “hand me the um, thingy, with the thing…you use it to put things in and it’s, uh, over by the thing” – but find I also have a problem with morphology.  Morphology consists of things like the plural markers on nouns; markers for tense and number on verbs; how we make comparative and superlative forms of adjectives and adverbs (e.g., “more quietly”).  So far, I don’t think this phenomenon has made its way into my pronouns.  I still manage to keep “he/him” etc. straight.  It had been confined to or at least predominant in the regular morphology (word structure) and not to the irregular.  Until today:  “closeder”, as in “more closed” or “less open”.

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  1. R. G. Maines

     /  October 8, 2010

    I’m not the best when it comes to language rules, but I sure do have a sensitivity to misspellings and lazy misuse of words… when did the following words become interchangeable?

    there, they’re, their
    your, you’re
    our, are
    where, wear, were, we’re
    two, too, to

    This stuff just makes me crazy! I feel better now…. LOL

  2. lol! It’s crazy, isn’t it? But imagine your chagrin if you started using them interchangeably even though you know the difference?!

    My least favorite construction: “to Max and I” etc. Drives me up a wall.

  3. I love this post. I used to be a self-proclaimed grammar snob and would be so upset with myself whenever I made an error. Especially because the error wasn’t because I didn’t know better. If I had to, I could write a book about language and grammar and misspellings and such. But now that there’s something screwy with my hormones, I type so much for my job and when I’m not typing I’m talking, I find I make a ton of Caveman errors. And, I just don’t care as much anymore because it seems like the more upset I get, the more caveman I get.

    However, I do judge other people for what I consider poor large-scale language/grammar rule following. I’m not fair.

    • Thanks for writing – yes it is quite shocking when it’s coming out of your own mouth/hand, isn’t it? Very much a “clutch the pearls” moment. 😉


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