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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Say What You Mean, and Mean What You Say!

"I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful one-hundred percent." -- Horton the elephant [Horton Hatches the Egg, by Dr. Suess, 1942]
Saying what you mean, and meaning what you say is a topic I have obsessed about in the past, having used the highlighted quote at the top many times and apparently erroneously attributed to Horton the elephant. But after a bit of research, it appears that what Horton really said is a bit different, as quoted and attributed above, hopefully correctly. However the meaning is clear either way, and that's what this particular blog is about, not Horton, or elephants.
I've always had the strong conviction that if you're going to say something, mean it, or else don't say it. And say what you mean for Pete's sake - take a second or two to put your brain in gear before putting your mouth in action! If there's something that irritates me during a conversation, it's when someone just blathers on without the slightest regard for the value of choosing their words in any particularly thoughtful way.

Now, first, here's a short history for perspective of where I'm coming from.

I guess that thinking about my words before speaking them was somehow ingrained in me from a very early age. I was basically very shy in grade school and was very self conscious. I was so afraid of being ridiculed for something that I said that I just never said much unless I was certain of what I wanted to say.

In any case, one day in a highschool study group for science, a friend stopped me cold with "Why are you always right?" It turned out to be a compliment, and my friend was just expressing his wonderment of how I had such a great track record for being correct with what I said. A confidence builder for sure, but not 100% true.

Later in highschool, I argued with an English teacher almost constantly over my written work since I'd always gotten excellent grades in English and I couldn't get above a C+ in her class. Finally it all came to a head at the end of the year, and she admitted that my work had been as good as any other student but she had noticed that I not only had writing talent, but also always had something to say - as in the difference between a wise man and a fool is that a fool has to say something, but a wise man has something to say. Therefor she was convinced that I could and should do even better.

Another friend, shortly after my highschool days, commented that I wasn't a conversationalist, because I always insisted on talking only about meaningful things rather than the weather we were having at the time.
Now, I'm not trying to be conceited here. Rather, I'm setting the tone for the importance and desirability of saying only what you mean, and meaning all that you say. I should note here that I have indeed practiced my simple conversationalist techniques just to be more sociable - it does have it's advantages! But by the same token, can't those with good conversational skills also benefit from putting a bit of meaning into what they say?

In any case, I think our kids need to learn about that Horton the Elephant business as much as possible. I've rarely made idle threats - if I tell my nephews that I'm turning around right now and taking them home if they don't stop bouncing around in the back seat of the car,... I Mean It! Else I don't say it. Kids are very good at picking up on empty threats. If I'm not prepared to follow through on the consequences of what I want to say, then I just don't say it. Is that such a bad way to live?

Adults need to learn about Horton the Elephant too.
 
So, go ahead, Say what you mean and mean what you say!
At least once in a while?

3 comments:

amethystnfire said...

I wonder if Dr. Suess always said what he meant and meant what he said.

Anonymous said...

My friend and I were recently discussing about the ubiquitousness of technology in our daily lives. Reading this post makes me think back to that debate we had, and just how inseparable from electronics we have all become.


I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Ethical concerns aside... I just hope that as memory gets less expensive, the possibility of copying our memories onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's a fantasy that I dream about every once in a while.


(Posted on Nintendo DS running [url=http://kwstar88.livejournal.com/491.html]R4 SDHC[/url] DS NetSurf)

The Eclectic said...

Indeed! I think we will see the integration of computer technology with the human brain in the not too distant future. Maybe not in my lifetime, but certainly within the next generation.