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Why do we talk nonsense?
Nonsense talk by Steven Green
Why do we talk nonsense?
Sometimes nonsense spills out of us unconsciously. For example, when having a chat with the dog about what they want for dinner, or perhaps when cooing at a particularly lovely baby. Other times it seems to hijack the serious point we are trying to make and leaves a trail of extended hyperbole and mangled meaning in its wake. Politicians seem particularly prone to this.
Nonsense talk is an everyday part of our language yet it's often confined to our most relaxed or intimate moments. Just as we rarely speak according to the rules of correct grammar all the time, so it follows that the words we speak aren't always confined to being in the dictionary.
When people are asked what the purpose of language is, the most common answer is communication. Without language, how could we possibly convey thoughts and ideas to fellow humans? But what happens when the words we use just don't seem to make sense, when we're talking and the words we use are a load of old chouff?Wof bish I shned thesby lok nextim inse toala gibbish? Understandy? But does language like this serve a purpose?Think about the words you use in relaxed conversation, especially with family and friends (and maybe even pets and animals). You may use specific words only within those specific groups - this is termed a 'sociolect'. It's an important part of the group-forming process, binding you together in something only your particular group does. So it follows that your group may have a vocabulary of made-up words, modified words, or existing words used out of context.I can identify various words and phrases from different groups of friends. In one group, the word 'stick' replaced a seemingly random selection of words, for example:
Listen to Portuguese friends in Lincolnshire talking about British nonsense. More...
Save my stick - Save my seat
Nice stick-work - A compliment, as in, you've done that rather well.
Check the stick-work on that - Not necessarily a compliment, but used in reference to another person, animal or object that perhaps exhibited exceptional characteristics. For example a crazy haircut, a chewed-up armrest on a sofa or a dented car door.
Of course, if I momentarily forgot which group I was with and used the wrong words associated with that group, I could well find my seat hadn't been reserved or my compliment hadn't been taken quite as expected...