Inarticulacy, or as I like to think of it, inarticularcy, is its own thingummy jig.
If you arse around with the words, which slip, fugitive from your whatsit, (holding with the hands and fingers, begins with rasp) the results are either a joy or jolly dangerous. Circumstances whojumaflip.
I had a friend whose whatjamacallit – female relative that had her, you know – yes, mother, thank you, was a confirmed alcoholic and frequently speechless by four in the afternoon. In the heady sixties, both her and the date, I was at her house staring in fascination as she waved her hands around. I was lighting a cigarette, teenage sophisticate that I was. As I applied the flaming lighter the waving increased until she looked liable to take off. The wings were accompanied by shouts of increasing force. No! NO! NO!
What on earth is she on about? I wondered, as I casually lit the filter of the cigarette. They go up like a dog chasing a cat upstairs at speed, with a little woof. She became exasperated that her utterances had not had the desired effect. This, as I sat behind the conflagration, she expressed succinctly: Oh.
You’d be looking for inarticulacy in places where language is taught, such as the School of English where I worked for a couple of joyful years. One of the standard exam questions: What is the purpose of a bath? usually drew answers such as: No you would need somewhere bigger to keep it in. Or: Only if it is a little one. And once: I would rather a dolfin.
Every day was hilarious and I do wish I had written it all down.
I think my appreciation was heightened by my maternal relative, a bear of little brain endeavouring to remedy the deficiency by repetition, shouting, or frequent requests: What am I thinking of, Jane?
Like many others she would have been rendered dumb, had you chopped her hands off. She was prone to adopting phrases that she had not understood. For several months she acclaimed circumstances, people, items in the news and occasionally, goods she had bought as ‘crap!’ My patient father let it go until he could bear it no longer and enlightened her as to the nature of the nominative. For some days she uttered: Oh! at intervals in the unusual silence as she recalled exactly at whom she had used the noun in question.
The S&H, who said his first word at four weeks, asked questions by four months and learns a new language whenever he is bored (currently Greek), shares my enjoyment of inarticulacy. He could beat his grandmother at a simple board game by the age of four and always cracked up when she demanded to know where he had got the learning.
I learned him good, obvs.
Now you could say this is just the facility of words of the very left brained, which the right handed are, and that in this woke age, we should rush to appreciate the inarticulate. I do appreciate them. I have done through all the hundreds of dyslexic proto-readers I have taught. Has it ever struck you what a very cruel spelling that is?
You can get over-woke, in my opinion. I have absolutely zero facility with airborne balls of any variety. This is partly because I could only see them recently but was still made to play tennis as a teenager. Couldn’t hit the ball, couldn’t see over the net, couldn’t see the other side of the court, found the racquet heavy, couldn’t see the lines, looked like an elephant in the short skirt, fell over my feet.
My mother accompanied me once as my father attempted to compensate for my deficiencies on a public court with people watching. Later she described the result to my aunts at my grandmother’s coffee morning: She stood there like bloody Queen Victoria, barely moving!
I had adopted this strategy at school discovering that I got hit less by balls if I stood still and shouted at less by the teacher for running the wrong way. I was pants at it. I could not see very well, which no one had divined, and I had the same shrunken legs that barely reached the ground as I have now.
But, in the main, being derided was character forming. In the far-off fifties and sixties, no one expected to be good at everything and all deficits were to be remedied by trying hard at something else. Some gels who were not good at speaking, or reading, or writing or suchlike were destined to be dinner ladies and make solid gravy, or doctor’s receptionists in charge of telephones and public relations.
Articulacy is not necessarily the sole province of the certificated intellectual. I had a lovely uncle who failed routinely at school but turned out to be a solid businessman with a word for every occasion. He had the gift of the gab and was frequently funny. How my mother was his inarticulate little sister is just a chuck of the die in genetic roulette. In adult life I have met certified tongue-tied book learners, proof that squirting the words in does not always result in the emergence of verbal glazed pretzels.
I think the right brained can help themselves to further servings of articulacy by eschewing left brained communications such as emojis. What you practice becomes you. I think I was eight when I was given a dictionary, best present ever. You are never going to activate your amygdala by Googling: when was the Queen coronated? which I was horrified to encounter recently. It is awfully easy to poke and scroll on a phone, which we might deduce from the spelling of phone firms who describe their products as: fones. It not nolidge, it poking screen wiv finger.
Most of all (here I will mount my teacher horse to ride around and nag on the nag) we need to talk to children. There is a vast groundswell of adults with child care responsibilities who believe the job can be done by parking the child in front of a screen. This against thousands upon thousands of years of human evolution of face to face interaction. Get in touch with a baby by talking; stamp out inarticulacy by putting words in the head of the young. Words for them, from you. Nice ones, easy at first, getting longer as you go.
If we all do it enuf there won’t not be no one what can’t not chat away like anyfink. You no?