As someone who studies communication, I’m fascinated by the barriers that keep people from understanding each other. Have you ever had a hard time understanding another person?
Of course you have! Communication is complex and messy.
Think about your own experiences. I’m sure many of you have talked to a doctor who uses medical terms you can’t interpret without a little help from Google. Or a computer repair technician who tries to explain you need to buy more memory if you want to store 5 million pictures of your pet beagle. Giga-wh?
Using industry specific jargon can alienate and intimidate your audience. In some cases, like that of a sketchy car repair shop that gives a bogus explanation about what is wrong with your car because they know you can’t comprehend what they are saying anyway, I’m not so sure that isn’t the point.
But most of the time, I think people want to be understood.
One day last week, I called my Mom as I was driving home from work. We had a nice conversation, catching up about the latest happenings in my little sisters’ lives. Then, I said something that caused my Mom to burst into laughter. Here’s a short summary of our convo:
Me: I really want to help out, but I’m not sure I have the bandwidth to take on anything else.
Mom: Bandwidth? Your head has bandwidth? Like a computer? (Insert lots of laughter here.)
Bandwidth is not something my Mom associates with people, only computers. She was initially confused, but then found the image hilarious. Brain. Computer. Bandwidth. Lots of laughter.
It never occurred to me she might not understand what I said. After she stopped laughing, I explained I hear this phrase used in this way frequently where I work at a software company. She attributed it to my generation, the techies as she likes to call us.
This got me thinking about some other, similar situations.
For example, my Mom says she is going to “take in” a movie rather than “go see” a movie. I wonder if this reflects the way we now view media. Years ago, it was obvious what you “took in” was indeed a part of you and would likely result in an output that reflects whatever it is you absorbed. Today, we like to delude ourselves into thinking playing violent video games or watching crude programs on TV doesn’t affect us. It’s just entertainment.
My Grandma says “stop and go light” instead of “traffic light” like I do, which I also believe to be a result of her generation’s place in history. Most families only had one car when she was my age. My Grandpa taught her how to drive after they were married. Point being, the roads weren’t as congested. A light’s purpose was to tell you when to stop and go, rather than control mass amounts of traffic.
What phrases or sayings have surprised you? Have you ever had a funny miscommunication due to generational language differences?