08 January 2016

The wrong words

“That is not what I mean.”

I say that all of the time. I say it so often that I sometimes wonder why I take such care in choosing my words. I might as well be choosing words at random – using some sort of random word generator, perhaps – if I am always to be misunderstood anyway.

It is last week. Mere moments before an important meeting between my boss and a Russian businessman is to occur. I find that our meeting room has been set up all wrong. Someone misunderstood my instructions.


If this is to be fixed – and it has to be fixed – then I must do the fixing and I must do it right here and now. Yet the only person around to assist me is a man who speaks only Russian.

I do not speak Russian.

I use pointing and pantomime and vocal emphasis to get my message across. And in this way, he understands me and I understand him. Together, we get the room in order in record time.

So do I mean to say that words are not important?

No. No, that’s not what I mean…  

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