Mumblers have laced through the centuries. The Greek, Demosthenes, spoke to the ocean with stones in his mouth.
In the 70s, my son listened to the car radio when I drove him to grade school. He had his favorite tunes and, like most popular songs, the lyrics were artistically garbled.
“Turn it up,” he said.
“What song?” I asked.
“It’s a Family of Bears.”
“Huh?” He gave me cause to pause. (pun) “Oh. You mean, It’s a Family Affair?”
A generation earlier, Jeff’s uncle, young Bobby, stayed home and listened to the singing contest on the radio. When his parents asked, “Who won?” he answered, “Some woman.”
“What’d she sing?”
A moment after his mother paused (no pun), she said, “You mean, Harbor Lights?”
Nephew Dillion listened intently to Alice In Wonderland read by a mumbling granny. The tree-bound grinning Cheshire Cat captivated him. When Santa left him a kitty for the holidays, he clearly had a name in mind.
“I want it to be the same as the cat in the story. Chester.”
My sister, Janet, went to lunch with Pop. A real kid’s treat. “What did you have?” Mother asked.
“It starts with a “B”, she answered. Janet shook her head at each of Mother’s guesses.
“Burger? Bacon? Bananas?”
“Nope,” Janet announced. “Bis-sketty and meatballs.”
Mother took a break (starts with a B) (pun), paused (no pun) and from that time forward made an effort to speak more clearly to us children.
Mumbling can happen with large numbers of people all at once. Jose came home from the baseball game elated that everyone in the stadium had made sure he had an unobstructed view of the playing field. He told his mother, “They all got up and sang, ‘Jose, can you see, by the lawn’s early light.’”
I hope foreign leaders who discuss world issues have interpreters who speak clearly. I wonder what incorrect results have billowed from interpreters interrupters with the challenging combo – mumbling in foreign word orders with accents. An innocent holiday decoration might start a war. “We send mistletoes,” might be misheard as two missiles.
Friend Patricia is learning Spanish and told the kid at the Puerto Rican McDonald’s counter to shut up. (Callate) She’d thought she’d responded with the jargon meaning, to go. (Calle) Both words, close in pronunciation, were problematically spoken in a mumbled English accent.
Consider religious leaders who encourage followers to celebrate, misheard as celibate.
Margaret, a pious church-going type, though the cult selling roses on New York City’s Streets were the Hairy Christians. I guess she never wondered about their name or origin. Maybe, they didn’t get it right either, figuring she was too busy to give them the time of day because she was praying with her rosemary beads: a fragrant ritual learned for her first Holy Reunion.
I know my husband understands my words. I do not mumble, but how did this happen?
We were lying in bed. My head rested on his hairy chest. The hairs tickled my nose. So, I picked up my head and rubbed my nose. I repeated the action several times.
“What’s going on?” he grumbled.
“The hair on your chest tickles.”
“What? What’d you say?”
“The hair on your chest tickles.”
“What? What’s wrong with the hair on my testicles?”
Did the proverbial table turn? Maybe, I’ve subliminally learned the art of speaking in mumbles.
We stood together on the third floor, looking out over the hotel property that we’d just checked into. I spied a cute ceramic frog on the edge of the pool. I know that I said, “Look at the frog spitting in the pool.”
“What?” my husband said. “Where?”
My comment confused him, so, I repeated, “Look at the frog spitting in the pool.” Then I realized he might have thought I’d said something else, so, I immediately blurted, “No, no. The frog isn’t relieving himself in the pool.”
“What are you saying?” He grew aggravated. “Those girls aren’t spitting in the pool. They’re splashing. I see the fog.”
Hello. At this juncture, the conversation left planet Earth. Where did it go?
I glanced around and realized he was quizzically staring out beyond the hotel property to the fog bank moving in, wondering what that had to do with the girls in the pool.
Is there any hope for this maddening situation of mumbling? Perhaps one should just say, “Speak up,” or “Take the stones outta yah mouth.”