Thursday, April 24, 2014

Say What??

My husband and I both moved around quite a bit when we were children. My husband has lived in Salt Lake, California, Germany, Texas, and Oregon, to name a few. I've lived all over Utah, with brief stints in Nevada, California, and Virginia. It will come as no surprise that our communication patterns are quite different from each other's. 

When I say the word "Yeah," I mean, "I agree with you." 

When my husband says the word "Yeah," he means, "I heard what you said."

Would you believe I didn't figure this out until we'd been married for about sixteen years?

All that time, I was getting frustrated because I'd tell him something or ask him something, and I'd think he was agreeing with me. Then when it came up later and it turned out that he did not agree with me, I felt like he wasn't listening to me or that he was changing his mind all over the place. One day, like a bolt of lightning out of the sky zapping me in the forehead, I realized that we were speaking two different dialects. I said to him, "When you say 'Yeah', what does it mean?"
He had a very confused look on his face when he said, "It means that I heard you." I explained what it means to me, and suddenly, an issue we'd been struggling with for sixteen years was resolved. Now when he says "Yeah," I ask, "Do you mean that you heard me or that you agree with me?" This gives us the chance to understand each other better and avoid disagreements later.

I'm sharing this because it's pertinent to your writing. Different regions use different words and phrases in different ways, and if you're using a term that doesn't have a universal meaning, you could confuse your reader. They might think you mean something else entirely, and that might change the meaning of the story for them. As you write and as you edit, seek to be very clear with what you mean so you're all on the same page (ha ha). A confused reader is not a repeat customer. 

1 comment:

  1. Glad you guys got that worked out--it sounds like a recipe for much pain and suffering! Good points about dialects. I recently did edits for an older British gentlemen, and we had good times working through the small kinks of that language difference.