Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I swear to you

The subtleties of language are complicated by culture, custom and hearing skills.

Because my children are American and have the power of verbal speech they are apt to say “I’m done,” on completion. This phrase is less common abroad. If you are abroad and say “I’m done,” it would be more likely to indicate that the speaker had run out of patience with the task or conversation. The speaker might make a hand gesture at the same time to emphasize their annoyance, terminating the chat. I think Brits would say ‘I’m done with this,’ but I’m out of date so don’t quote me. It is because of this inference that Nonna seems to always catch this phrase, it catches her interest because of the underlying implication that her grandchildren are upset about something. Saying ‘I’m done’ in English, especially if it’s your second language as Nonna is Italian, is the American equivalent of ‘I’m outta here’ or ‘enough already.’ Nonna, being the concerned grandmother that she is, will then encourage the children to explain why they are upset. Her inability to hear their replies usually makes for an escalating scene of frustration all round.

In essence, it runs like this:-

“I’m done.”
“You’re done? What ave you done?”
“I’m done.”
“What ave you done?”
“I said…I’m done?”
“Yes I know you said you were done but I am asking you what ave you done?”
“I’m done already!”
“What have you already done?”
“I’m done!”

Let’s just say that it’s one of those little repeats that I would prefer to repeat less often as it makes for lots of hurt feelings all round and ever greater degrees of confusion for everyone. Hence, just lately, I have been trying to persuade my children to say that they are ‘finished’ instead of done. I thought it would take a long time, as so many of these things take longer around here than they do in other places. I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when after any number of prompts, I found that the children helped each other out and began prompting themselves. When the ‘done’ word popped out, I was right on their case with my pre-emptive strike, but I wasn’t quite quick enough as my youngest son shouted at his brother at 50 decibels, “no dummy! Use the F word!” I watched Nonna’s hands fly to her mouth, speechless, before the hesitant question, “did ee just say wot I tink ee said?”

It’s a gentle reminder, to think through the natural and all possible consequences of one minor change and just how far the ripples will travel.

9 comments:

Niksmom said...

Chortling into my coffee over this one!

Anne said...

good one!

Jazz said...

The F word! LOL

buffalodick said...

The Brits have as many stupid phrases as the Americans, Australians, and any other English speaking nation.. Even Third World nations like Canada has abused English! The accents are so strong on the Indie TV channels when they do British- I wish there were sub titles! Hope you are well,
Buff

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

Too funny! Love it!

Margaret said...

Ha, ha, "The F word"! around my house, we are not allow to say "the S word." You know, "stupid."

therextras said...

Heh! You know how I pheel. Thanks for my daily morning smile, Maddy.

addhumorandfaith said...

Maddy, you have such a knack for telling a story. I always enjoy "listening".

I'm done now. And I'm not in the least bit mad. I'm "done" because I just don't feel comfortable using the "F word"! :)

jinksy said...

Out of the mouths of babes...