When we string words together, we hope they make as much sense to everyone else as they do to us. They often do not, for various reasons.
I had a conversation the other day about the murkiness of acronyms: to the user they may well be clear, but to the listener they are often likely to be the source of much confusion. Changing the exact term to protect the speakers, what is the EPA? Without first saying that the Environmental Protection Agency is what is meant, it could be one of several other organizations or activities. The speaker can take it for granted that it is clear what is meant, but it’s really taking the listener for granted by not making sure it’s clear. When one acronym is strung with several others, who knows where the listener may be headed if he or she gets the first one misinterpreted.
But, you have to love children for the way that they turn their knowledge to good effect, and how they can make a string of adult sentences into seeming nonsense. I listened to my wife describe her day at work, and the interjections that our first grader made were gems. “He’s the SPM,” my wife told me. “What’s that?” asked the child. “That’s the senior personnel manager,” my wife elaborated. “Oh, does he deal with the old aged people at work?” asked the curious child. “I made him a proposal that I hope he takes seriously,” continued my wife. “But, you are already married. How could you do that? You’re not thinking of getting married again, I hope,” chimed the child who did not want to have to any more parental units. I knew that it was late to be eating ice cream, but all of this came before the first scoop had been served. “Here’s the scoop…I’d like some ice cream. Get it?” The child proffered the scoop, and knew she was on a roll. I waited for her to say “I’m on a roll. But, of course, it’s past my bread time.” My eyes rolled at this display of droll humour.
At the end of a day that had seen some dizzying and confusing movements in numbers, I needed to have words to settle me. But, even the words were spinning out of control. I sought something calmer and knew it was time to focus on other word play. I opened the crossword, before any cross words could be uttered.