With friends, we watched a four hour long Bollywood movie last night and I remembered almost nothing except one rule to explain human language: ‘When people say I love fish, they don’t mean they love fish itself, they meant they love the fish on the dinner table.’
With a big laugh, I started to think about how to understand our language. When we say something, how much is being said, to which extend we mean it, what is the implied message behind each vocabulary, what is not being said, what is assumed, what is expected as a response to be socially acceptable?
Yesterday morning I was attending a meeting with Simon, who works in a European government agency. Simon told me quite a few people went into his office and the first thing they said ‘ We understand Western culture!’. Define Western, define culture.
It is hard already to know the real meaning when someone says ‘I love fish’. A simple sentence spoken looks so simple on the surface. But deep down it embeds so much of one’s past and present, and the society (yesterday and today) behind that individual. It is useful to have a dictionary but that is still far from enough.