Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I don't feel tardy

You might think I chose this week's song because I had developed some inappropriate feelings for one of my instructors. That is not the case, though it is, when it comes to me, not such a bad guess. I am a sucker for an academician, especially one that takes time out to shower me with brainpower and hit me with some knowledge. Fortunately, there are no such instructors to be found in medical school. It has more of a feeling of a seminar, a how-to. Most of the lightbulb-above-the-head moments (and really there aren't that many, because medicine is not quantum physics- it's a lot of information, but not conceptually mind-bending by any means) happen with my headphones on, just me and a book, no external assistance included.

No. Instead, I was thinking of language when I chose this song. Often, over the years, friends have remarked that we had developed a kind of speech such that a passerby would either think we were talking in a foreign tongue or babbling gibberish. I have been realizing that, as I get to know someone better, a kind of shorthand develops, an amalgam of pop culture references, funny misappropriations of terms, song lyrics, weird inside jokes to do with a quirky moment in our histories. The end result is colorful to those who understand it, but it must be pretty annoying to anyone on the outside trying to make sense of it all.

I was trying to trace back its origin, because I actually don't like talking in foreign tongues that are like to alienate or exclude. Usually, when this naturally happens, I try to explain the idiotic slang and phrases and inside jokes, though usually these explanations are met with a roll of the eyes or a patient, tight smile.

My brother was probably more responsible for starting it though. When we were younger, thrown together more than we would have liked, both bored and hyperactive, all kinds of words would get thrown together, all sorts of language mutated. Sometimes Gujarati and English would meld together, just for the sake of perfecting an insult or barb. My brother was a bigger clown than I was, and he would latch onto a bit of funny and just juice it dry.

The video of Hot for Teacher is your typical 80s Van Halen fare- completely silly schtick and aimed towards a 12-year old boy. Since my brother was younger than that when it came out, he just found the beginning of the video to be endlessly amusing. A nerdy kid with hair so greasy that it squeaks when his mother smooths it out boards the bus where, of course, DLR's the driver. DLR hits him with his most menacing (as menacing as DLR can ever get, which, anyone who remembers DLR will agree, is not very much at all) boom: "Sit down Waldo!"

Such a throwaway line but bro-seph could not let it go. He had created this whole meaning in his head. If he perceived me to be doing something geeky, I'd get "Sit down Waldo!" If one of our family friends was over and a younger one in the bunch was harassing my brother too much or in danger of damaging some carefully constructed Lego masterpiece, said family friend would be served with "Sit down Waldo!" Some people did not even know the etiology, but the context was not exactly subtle.

It occurred to me that this was the beginning of bad precedent. We had found the whole thing pretty amusing, and enough people had understood my brother that he felt confident in carrying forward. After that, we had a kind of freedom to play with language and claim phrases and quotes for our own secret purposes.

Now I see that it carried over. And now I sorely miss some of the shorthand that I had with old friends, now lost on newer friends. They all have backstory that makes no sense- I could get a laugh (for myself) chronicling some of them out here, but I doubt anyone else would find them amusing. Instead, you have to interact again, reconnect, create a new language each time you find yourself increasingly in the company of another. But then when you zoom out a bit more, the same thing happens on a macro level. Even blogging probably has a language somewhat its own, and the occasional passerby reads it and wonders why it is completely incoherent. Oh wait, maybe that's just my inability to string a sentence together.

No comments: