The phantom limb of language

What is a pun?

At its most basic, a pun is a way of using the sound of words to make a connection between meanings that don’t exist otherwise. The husband confuses impotent for important. Of course, the major point of the joke is the ridiculous spectacle the man makes of himself because of his mistake. A minor point is the slim connection between his biological impotence and his impotence in language, although you can laugh at the pun without explicitly making that connection.

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Siona the Former Telepath:

Language as apraxia and my granddaughter Siona

“No one sleeps in this room without
the dream of a common language.
 – Adrienne Rich, “The Origins and History of Consciousness”

My granddaughter Siona is 23 months old, God bless her. She is very communicative and expressive and highly intelligent (aren’t all granddaughters?). But she doesn’t speak much yet, at least in English. She has a few monosyllables: da, ma, pa, dee, koh, bay, ekk, choo, sniff with nose [flowers], cluck with tongue [horsey]. She has a couple dozen signs that are fairly conventional in baby sign language: rub tummy for hunger, squeeze hand for milk, put fists together for “more,” thump chest for “teddy,” slap sides for “dog”… Until she learned to articulate the word “yes” clearly and firmly this week, she had a funny way of nodding her head, tightening her whole chest and saying “Unnhh!” for affirmation. We all imitated it and laughed. Now she says, “Yes,” with a tiny trace of her former sign, and it’s disappearing fast.

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