Thursday, August 14, 2014

Linguistics R Us

The end at the beginning.   Ardis?  You win the draw!    Kicks Like a Girl is heading your way . . send details to mpetrie33 at gmail dot com.

Otherwise . .. .

The Matron is about to do a servere disservice to Complex Linguistic Theory.   If you have a PhD in English and are reading this, please forgive her.  You know who you are.

 In this theory, absence defines what is present.    Sounds like super-duper gibberish?  Absence defines what's present?

It goes like this:  part of the reason we know that "G" is "G" is because it is not A, B, C, or D and so on.   We understand "apple" as "apple," in part, because it is not this box of letters  -- "table"  or this box of letters "bed."  

Absence is important because there is no fixed meaning to any box of letters, to any word.  For example, if the Matron asks you to picture a "coat" in your mind, what do you see?  Give that coat a color, history, texture, length.   Picture it.

This whole blog post depends on the visual.  Get that coat in your head!

You can bet your coat was different than hers.   The Matron saw a red suede little number, with heavy stiching and a vintage edge.   Knee length. And she owns one.   Unless everyone reading this saw the same, it's clear that our understanding of '"coat" varies from person to person.  When we see the word "coat," we don't each see red, suede, and adorable.   But we can all know that "coat" is not "porch."   So even if we can't immediately see the same "coat," we know it's not "porch" or anything else, and can get to that general shared framework of "coat."

This, in short (and to summarize and bastardize LEGIONS of work and theory), this is why absence -- what a word is not -- is fundamental to what the word means.

Being the literary sort, the Matron has returned to Complex Literary Theory in the course of her everyday life.    The past few days have been spent entirely in service of --or defined by -- what is not.   What is absent.  The list?

  • He Who Cannot Be Named (HWCBN)'s wisdom teeth
  • John
  • Scarlett
  • Merrick

HWCBN had his wisdom teeth removed on Monday and, boy oh boy!  The Matron cannot remember a time when something that didn't exist caused her so much maternal headache and toil:  ice packs, pain medication, soft food, warm salt water, medicated rinse, etc.    This, folks, has not been a pain-free process.  The extraction went well but the young man in question?  Suffering.   But the Matron is running about, utterly defined by the absence of those damn teeth.

Complicating this is the fact that the rest of the household has departed -- absent, gone, poof!   Scarlett is doing a week-long theater residency in northern Minnesota; John and Merrick are camping.    Although the lack of people --and subsequent domestic mayhem -- has been conducive to HWCBN's recovery, it has also meant that there is nobody else here for HWCBN to talk to.   . . . . so not only is she hustling around meeting his medical needs, she must also pause and perch on a bedside (appearing as if she had all the time in the world!) to chat and otherwise entertain, unassisted.  The Matron is on solo social duty because of what she lacks, the absence:  everybody else.

While the Matron feigns Repose with her firstborn, her head is exploding with the list of Stuff that Must Get Done  -- from sabbatical project to book promotion to pain medication to malt-making to dog-walking.   That Stuff inserts itself into the Matronly mind to claw and carp:   wash me!  Walk me!  Write me!

The things taking up her brain space -- those chores, that Stuff, -- are also currently absent.   Here she is, sitting by the bedside, ministering to the ailing.   Her outside demeanor?  Well!  Florence Nightinggale could take a page!    Invisible to others, yet structuring the Matron's own experience of this moment,  is what she is not doing.  She is sitting here.  She is not writing.    She can only be sitting here because she is not writing.    Again, defined by what's absent.

These, friends, are the sorts of thoughts that currently clutter the Matronly mind and shape her experience.  Feel sorry for her.    She is not just caring for the ailing while unloading the dishwasher and every other damn thing, but she must do so while awash in semiotics.

Now, that's a tricky way to live.

Unloading the dishwasher, awash in semiotics.

And on another  -- more Reality Driven -- note entirely.

Kicks Like a Girl goes to Ardis.   Send details to mpetrie33 at gmail dot com.