Communication, Thoughtful

A Mammalist view of Words

There are two sorts of individual: those who need words and those that do not. If you are a writer you are likely to be one of the former — but not necessarily. Nonsense! Everyone needs words!

We have a friend who is a bit different, actually quite a lot different, he has a genetic abnormality that affects his ability to use language — the language part of his brain is absent or switched off.

A dog knows some nouns – his name, ‘dinner’, ‘walkies’, ‘stick’, and some verbs — ‘fetch’, and he understands ‘No!’ My dog understands some phrases – ‘feed the dog’, ‘feed the sheep’ and ‘go to bed.’ But he can’t articulate very clearly and, okay, his grasp of sophisticated language isn’t great.

Our friend’s articulation is better, he has the right equipment but his grasp of language is similar. This is quite a disability – but not that much of a disability. He looks different but is physically robust, as strong as an ox, has good balance and co-ordination, is hard working and eager to please – he will dig or sweep or wield an axe all day. He will walk home, day or night, mile across the fields and is never out of work and rarely short of money. He also has terrific social skills, notwithstanding his appearance and people’s often negative response to him for all the above reasons.

The thing is: he has a very well developed grasp of the non-verbal, knows exactly what is going on, who likes who, who doesn’t and who would stab you in the back – ‘Bad man!’ And he is right. This is another reason folks are wary of him. I’m not sure about the workings of his sense of humour but he loves to laugh, he rejoices in laughter, is attracted to it, infected by it, bathes in good humour when it surrounds him.

His life is very difficult – he loves to be in a social setting but social settings increasingly fear those who are different and finds excuses to exclude them.

It’s a shame I cannot transpose his perception of the world into words for you because, if I could, it would have the emotional intelligence that would stun you and there would be no bull-shit.

Words are very blunt instruments.

This brings me to the thought that set me off on this tack. People that haven’t always lived with animals find it odd: the concept of personality in other species and that is only because we depend so much on language. It means we miss a lot.


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