Re: Do you think in language?

Eric N Shook (
24 Apr 1995 05:31:36 GMT

Gil Hardwick ( wrote:

: Seems much easier and far more enjoyable for humans to think in images
: than in language.

: Notice how bored an audience can get sitting there listening to the
: monotonous spoken word for hours on end. Notice how they spark up with
: a few good graphics and colour photographs, and with an enthusiastic
: performance from the lecturer.

When I speak I have always found that people listen. I seem to be able
to captivate them for hours. I virtually can speak on end for days. I
know, for I once did so, speaking to the same three people for some
70+ hours. I never thought much of how I was able to do this until

Visiting my hoome town, and returning from a walk, I proceeded to
explain to the friend I was staying with all of the things that had
happened to me that day. He stopped me after about twenty minutes and
declared that it he had suddenly realized _why_ I was so captivating.

Firstly, I have been telling stories for years. In the Navy there were
many dull hours, and this is one of the places where storytelling
equals status, and therefore there is somewhat of a remaining
storytellers tradition. Not to mention that there is a high premium
placed upon the ability to relate a sense of home to those who are

Secondly, as my friend Tom well noted, I am a _highly_ animated
person. Not just in my conveyance of information via gestures, and
dramatic pauses, but also in my recollection of the simplest
events. As he put it, "what for anyone else would have been a normal
walk into town was for me an entirely huge experience." I am very
sensitive to lively details. Some would call it hypersensitive.

Thirdly, I repeat myself a lot. All of this is not by training in any
formal sense, although I understand that these are skills that any
program on speaking might teach. I just picked this up by having been
exposed to an incredible number of people with variously sized
ears. They all heard me differently, and so I tailored my method of
speaking to them as I interpreted their postures and expressions.

Of course, this is nothing new, either.

Essentially I become an image, and my job as a speaker is to transfer
images. It has very little to do with words, and I have always found
that images are reducible to personal experience on anyone's part.

So, the pattern goes something like this. The crowd here in Wisconsin
is diverse. A mixture of the well educated, who all need to be spoken
to in large words so that the ramifications are voluminous and
impressive, and the farmer's who know dirt in an intimate way and will
sense that the large words are the right one's, and that "staccato" is
what it sounds to be when expressed as such, and that the word
"expressed" must mean what he's doing with his hands as he visually makes
movements of extrusion before his face.....and then you summarize with
the statement "I was speaking very, very fast." They all get the
message. Proceeding along the same lines you might mention that you
were "speaking like an Auctioneer"...segue into a little auctioneering
where you are auctioneering off the words that you are speaking
of...staccato getting a small price because it doesn't get much use
being so specialized a tool....small and sharp like a hoe, but
"expressed" picks up a big series of bids, a lot of attention, and
"fetches a fair price." Then you could switch back to immitate
a university professor who is always dull and boring, seeming to
"spout off" such useless drivel....(the less educated will love this
description and immediately sense the stark contrast to their own
auctioneer who is very gifted and useful)...speak about the lecturer's
topic of movement to the urban zone....(here we have a topic common to
both audiences, and as well, the educated love parodies of boring
lectures) and then drive the point home that we all come from the same
places. Romanticize the fields, and then romanticize the process by
which we know these things whether we are city folk or country folk.
"Not because some lecturer tells us about it while we try to chug
coffee to ward of his droning. "But because we each have some
experience that ties into what he is saying....if he only knew how to
gete to it." "The auctioneer knows, why not the professor? The
auctioneer has to know. he depends upon it for a living right then and
there. He must convince us that the next dress on the auction block
would be the very one that is important to your Aunt Betty, so she can go
to town next week. We know about the transformation that Aunt Betty
must make. If the professor were smart, he'd be talking about Aunt
Betty, and not only Executive specialization." Finally, you could
rest upon the point that how we express ourselves must be
to each other, and not to some alien TV audience, or to a disembodied
mass of people...without.... being..... before us.....or behind us.

Fourthly, the image is where home is. Every person comes from a
different home, which in essence will be the source, or library, of
images that a person is most engendered to, most capable of readily
understanding. The audience always lets you know where those images
are if you watch them while you speak.

Finally, I would never belittle words. They are the only gateway to an
image. Show me a picture and my reaction is prolonged, and only
directed in so much as the master who drew it can provide, or the ad
man can contrive via his silent auction appeal stab at my home. The
pictures our lectureers show nowadays are meager attempts to emphasize
their words.....the same words which should be already providing an
image. Show me the same picture that you were just
staring at and put some words to it and the meaning becomes distinct.

Words are much more key to communication than any picture alone.

It seems to me that we Westerners are communicationally
dysfunctional. I only noted this when I realized how little value
we put upon being capable of transmitting experiences
effectively across classes of people.
Perhaps this also explains our failure in education?

In ending this rampage of tippie tapping, I would like to apologize
for any seeming arrogance, or any awkward, unedited text which may not
make sense on the first reading. But, I've just splashed these few
thoughts together in agreement with the idea that the best
communication is done in images.

Also, I find that I think in words and images almost inseperably.
I think car and I see many.

I dream in foreign languages sometimes, where there is a setting also
carrying the language-events.

In the end, I think that we think in multi-media ;)
After all, we have evolved both our senses of sight and language/sound
together. Why wouldn't we think in both simultaneously?

OK, catch a breather. Its been long....So long :)