Anyone who knows me will know that I love words – I work with them all day, preening them, honing them, bashing sentences into shape and removing unnecessary punctuation and tutting at misplaced commas.
As a teenager when I was going deafer, it occurred to me that some of my peers, (mentioning no names, Hannah) were using quite humungously-massive words in their 32-page politics essays that I had never heard of. And it got me thinking about why I didn’t know any of these words – and then I realised I hadn’t heard them.
It’s always fairly obvious if there’s a word that I don’t hear very well as I rarely use it – and when I do it’s more of a mumble, often with the beginning and end letters in place but not much else.
This has been the case since I was very little. I couldn’t lipread ‘S’ – it’s an invi’ible letter to the eye. So I used to ask for ’au’age’ and math for tea and my favourite teddy was called ’inging bear. My marvellous mum sat with my religiously going over the letter ‘s’ (she didn’t know I was deaf at the time – I wasn’t keeping a secret or anything – I didn’t know either) and eventually I got it – although until the age of 10 it had a big fat ‘th’ in the middle of it. So I was saying Thinging Bear and Thathaguh.
As I got older it was words like schizophrenic – goodness knows why I wanted to know how to say that word, but anyway I did. But I couldn’t!
It’s such a hard one to lipread so instead it used to come out as skitzopreenic! Or sometimes scitzophrmhmrph.
So once again I sat with my mum going over it syllable by syllable as though it was the hardest word in the English language – but I cracked it and I can say it – and now I am just waiting for my chance to use it!
With my last boyfriend, who was fluent in French, I used to be afraid of saying crepe and Comte – the former sounding very much like crap, the latter sounding like Crumphe. One time we went for a picnic on Hampstead Heath and he took me for a crap and fed me Crumphe. Needless to say, we broke up.
When I watch TV I am completely unable to distinguish one word from the next – but for some reason I seem to forget this and just act like I can hear what the heck is going on. No more so than on a recent flight from Istanbul to London. There I was watching You, Me and Dupree laughing along with everyone else at the crappy antics of the blonde scarecrow-y looking man when all of a sudden housemate said to me, ‘Why are you watching it with your headphones switched to Channel 10?’ I looked at her and replied, ‘because that’s what channel it’s on…’
‘Yes, in French!’ was her response!