I just can’t get it through my skull
It’s hard to bargle nawdle zouss
with all these marbles in my mouth
Well, okay, so maybe I’m not that bad, but there are times when it seems as though Weird Al Yankovic was singing about me in “Smells Like Nirvana.”
I just can’t seem to speak clearly.
I’m not talking about my tendency to spout random nonsense. Things like, “If your mother’s sister works for the fire department, would that make her a fire aunt?” pop up out of nowhere. Of course, that presents problems all their own because my brain tends to translate misheard phrases into things I might say. About a year and a half ago, someone in the newsroom was talking about a person bringing something to the office to show us. It sounded to me like he said something about dipping himself in tartar sauce.
As problematic as such instances can be, what I’m talking about is my apparent inability to even present my few coherent thoughts in an intelligible manner.
It’s been a problem for practically my whole life. I’ve always talked too fast and too low. It’s a problem that is exacerbated by nervousness, such as when I’m engaged in public speaking.
My verbal discourse has improved over the years, thanks largely to the mandatory speech class in college and speaking in church. Even so, on an average day I more often resemble a mumbling auctioneer than James Earl Jones.
I’ve often said I’m glad I don’t work in broadcast since I talk low and fast and can’t pronounce some of the words I write down.
The situation is, to say the least, frustrating. Perhaps more for my wife than anyone. Many of our conversations probably take three times as long as they should. Her part invariably goes something like this:
“I can’t understand you.”
At this point, I try to speak up and slow down some more. That seems to do the trick.
Of course, it’s just as frustrating for me. I hate repeating myself, especially when it often seems to me that the time I am finally understood, I was speaking exactly the same as the first time around.
Such instances seem to be a little more infrequent, for which I am extremely grateful. I can find enough other things to make people mad at me without it being over how I talk. I will certainly try to continue working on it, but it’s hard to correct something you don’t always realize you’re doing.
When it’s not exasperating me, my own communication troubles give me an appreciation for those who have to overcome their own difficulties to communicate. My own challenges are slight enough, especially beside the real communication handicaps.
The deaf can’t hear, so it’s nearly impossible to know how words are supposed to sound. Those with speech impediments have difficulty making the right sounds. And there are a whole host of communication difficulties in between.
People often make fun of speech impediments or try to finish their sentences. Be patient. They’ll get their words out with a little time. And in most cases, it will have been worth the wait.
As for myself, I’ll just keep writing things down for you to read and leave the verbal commentary to those who can do it without a gibberish-to-English translator.
Jeff Parish is managing editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 903-455-4220 ext. 323.