I Think I Heard You Say. . . .

14 Oct

Do you know what I’ve discovered?  Given the thousands of languages spoken all over the world (and the
ones yet undiscovered) it’s a wonder we are not involved in perpetual world wars.
  Communication between humans, even when we speak the same language, is only as good as my husband’s car’s antiquated GPS system.  If there are no tall buildings, if the atmosphere is just right, if there isn’t thick cloud coverage, and if the signal isn’t receiving interference from a gazillion other GPS systems in our over-crowded city, then and only then will WW and I make it out of the bowels of the worst part of the inner city where we’ve inadvertently
gotten lost.  But if all of those factors are interfering with the GPS’s communication to our car, then after a few instructions to proceed “200 feet and make a sharp ‘U’ turn,” our direction finder, whom we call Penelope, will give up the ghost, shut down completely, and go totally silent.  Although, when we listened carefully the last time, we could have sworn we heard her mumbling:  “You are on your own biotchs, ‘cause I’m not feelin’ this”!

According to Wikipedia, “Communication requires a sender, a message, and an intended recipient. . . .  The
communication process is complete once the receiver has understood the message of the sender.” 

. . .and therein lies the rub!

Gustave Doré’s interpretation of the biblical confusion of tongues/ Wikipedia

There are so many combinations of humanoids in which communication can be turned upside down or completely distorted because of what Wikipedia cites as “barriers to communication”:  attitudinal barriers, ambiguity of words/phrases, message overload, physical barriers, individual linguistic ability, physiological barriers, and presentation of information to name a few.  I’ve experienced quite of few of these barriers to communication, and all three examples listed below are true stories.

HUSBAND vs. WIFE: (Communication Barrier = “Presentation of Information” combined with “Message Overload”)

The Blogger Wife said:  “When you go to the grocery store, would you get me ten containers of hot red pepper flakes because our neighbor says that if we spread it throughout our property the dogs won’t shit on the lawn anymore.  Speaking of our neighbor, did you know her third child had another miscarriage and the fifth child is getting yet another divorce?  Isn’t that so sad?  And I didn’t even tell you how Sylvia came outside to get the mail in one of her scantily-clad outfits as if this were the ghetto, and don’t you know she didn’t even begin to try and speak to me and Sondra.  So I said to Sondra, ‘Oh, no she deh-ent. . . .’”

  • THE BLOGGER’S HUSBAND HEARD:  “When you go to the grocery store, buy me 60 red peppers, blah, blah, blah, blah.” As the husband placed the 60 fresh red peppers into the grocery cart, he wondered what in hell kind of meal his wife was going to make with 60 fresh red peppers.  He went back and put two bottles of Maalox in the cart.

Google Image

MOTHER vs. TEENAGE GIRL:  (Communication barrier =Attitudinal” and “Presentation of Information”)

My Fifteen-year-old said:  “How do you like this outfit?”

  • THIS MOTHER HEARD:  “Do you think I look like your precious little girl in this – the kind that will fly under the radar of horny sixteen-year-old boys?”

This Mother answered:  “Oh, Honey, you look ADORABLE!”

  • MY FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD HEARD:  “Oh Sweetie, you look just like a ten-year-old CHILD.”

My Fifteen-year-old answered:  “That’s not what you were supposed to say!  You were supposed to say that I look ‘HOT’!Upon iterating that jarring communication, said teenager burst into tears and ran back to her room, slamming the door with all her might.


This Mother started talking to no one in particular:  “Shit, that child must have lost her ever-lovin’ mind.
What kind of fool does she take me for — Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I ask you that?”

After the passing of some time, the teenager returns dressed in a full-on “Daisy Duke’s” outfit, replete with half-moon buns peeking out of the shorts and the already prematurely established 34D’s popping out of a tube top that The Mother had no idea the child possessed.

My Fifteen-year-old said:  “I’m going over to Betsy’s house to study.  I’ll be back before curfew.”

  • THIS MOTHER HEARD“I’m going out tonight to have sex with every guy that I meet.  Don’t wait up.”

Google Image/Jessica Simpson

The Father said:  “When the hell did all that happen?” pointing toward the Jessica Simpson/Jenny McCarthy imitation that had morphed into his daughter, as he put down his newspaper for the first time since the great wardrobe wars had begun 30 minutes ago between The Mother and The Teenager.

  • THIS MOTHER HEARD:  “I need you to get ahold of this, because what I’m looking at right now
    scares the shit out of me!”


This Mother started talking to no one in particular:  “As if I’d let her out of this house wearing that skanky outfit.  That’s my baby and she’s gonna’ stay that way!”

At which point, the teenager went stomping down the hall to her room, The Father went back to reading his newspaper, and The Mother made a mental note to ask one of her Muslim friends if they had an extra burqa that her daughter could wear for the next ten years.

Google Image

FRIEND vs. FRIEND:  (Communication barrier = “Ambiguity of words/phrases”)

Two little girls, who were “play cousins” around the age of eight, were playing house while their parents were finishing up dessert and coffee one Thanksgiving Day many years ago.  Little-girl B’s grandfather had
just died within the last month and little-girl A (my daughter) was trying to console her.

Little-girl “A” said:  “So, I hear your granddad bought the farm.”

  • LITTLE-GIRL “B” HEARD:  “I hear your granddad moved to a farm.”

Little-girl “B” answered:   “Huh, no he doesn’t live on a farm.”

Little-girl “A” said:  “No, I heard he bit the dust.”

  • LITTLE-GIRL “B” HEARD:  “I hear your granddad is eating dust.”

Little-girl “B” answered:  “Noooo, my granddad never ate dirt.”

Little-girl “A” said:  “Well, I heard he kicked the bucket.”

  • LITTLE-GIRL “B” HEARD:  “Your granddad kicks things.”

Little-girl “B” answered:  “No, my granddad didn’t kick anything.”

Little-girl “A” said:  “Sheesh Louise!  I HEARD YOUR GRANDDAD DIED LAST MONTH!”

Little-girl “B” answered:  “What? Mom!

POLITICAL CANDIDATES vs. THE AMERICAN PEOPLE:  (Communication barrier = “Individual linguistic ability”):

Herman Cain said:  “African-Americans have been brainwashed into not being open minded, not even considering a conservative point of view. . . . So it’s just brainwashing (not voting for me) and people not being open minded, pure and simple.”

  • THIS BLACK PERSON HEARD:  “I’m an arrogant son-of-a-bitch who is assuming I’m qualified to speak for all African-Americans, and I think I am the only smart, analytical African-American who is able to figure out the truth about what is going on in the political arena today.  African-Americans are all idiots, except for me.”

This Black Person answered:  “As one who voted Reagan-80, Bush-father, Bush-son, Obama-08, I think I considered the conservative POV for quite a while before I decided not to do it again.  I also know other African-Americans who did the same.  So, who are you referring to, Hermie?”

Herman Cain said:  “The only tactic liberals have is to try to intimidate people into thinking that the Tea Party is racist. The Tea Party is not a racist movement, period!  If it were, why would the straw polls keep showing that the black guy is winning? That’s a rhetorical question.  Let me state it: The black guy keeps winning.”

  • THIS BLACK PERSON HEARD:  “I have chosen to ignore the fact that the Tea Party is using me because I am too clueless and arrogant to recognize that they have placed my frog’s ass in water that seemed to be tepid and inviting at first (on purpose), but there is a segment of the group (not all of them) that will heat the water to the point of boiling and poach my ass as soon as they no  longer need me to try and seduce the illusive black vote.”

This Black Person answered:  “You, my man are the flavor of the month, and you are as cynical a choice for the Tea Party as John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin.  I shall never forgive the Tea Party or John McCain for the travesty they have unleashed upon us.  Hear this, Herman Cain:  you truly are a disgrace to the race.”

Herman Cain said:  “Don’t try to pass a 2,700-page bill.  You and I didn’t have time to read it. We’re too busy trying to live — send our kids to school. That’s why I am only going to allow small bills — three pages. You’ll have time to read that one over the dinner table.”

  • THIS BLACK PERSON HEARD:  “I know the devil is in the details but don’t your worry your pretty little heads about it.  I’ll pass simple bills for simple people.”

This Black Person answered:  “Shit, ‘Uncle Hermie’, I guess that means you and I would still be imprisoned by Jim Crow laws (poor, uneducated, unable to vote, and unelectable to public office), would have no Social Security, and would live in constant fear of having our asses bombed to smithereens since the Civil Rights Act (8 pages), the Social Security Act (64 pages), and the Patriot Act (600+) were all more than three pages long.  Damn, couldn’t the Tea Party have found a better Black man to ‘represent’?

Herman Cain said:  “Let me introduce you to my 9-9-9 Tax Plan.”

  • THIS BLACK PERSON HEARD:  I got this tax idea from copying the price of one of my pizzas (I figure if it works for my pizzas, it could work for America), and I’ve made it my main campaign theme because it’s catchy and could be passed into law on just one page!  Of course, I won’t tell anybody that I suspect when you do the math my plan will only raise half the revenue our country needs while putting most of the burden on the poor.  The taxes on the middle class would increase by thousands of dollars.  But, hey, my rich friends will sure think I’m swell!”

This Black Person answered:  “Oh God, me and my peeps are so screwed!”


Wikipedia describes “individual linguistic ability” as a communication barrier because:  “The use of . . . inappropriate words in communication can prevent people from understanding the message.  Poorly explained or misunderstood messages can also result in confusion.  We can all think of situations where we have listened to something explained which we just could not grasp.”

I am discovering that communication is a very, very hard thing between humans, but absolutely necessary to get it right in order to live in harmony with one another.   Lack of proper communication can crush feelings, destroy careers, break up marriages, undermine friendships, and start wars.  I have had several situations in my life when I just knew I was on the same page with another person or persons and come to find out, I had started a war and never knew it.  But so much of what infuses proper communication depends on the attitude of the heart.  Do I love or deeply care for the human whom I’m communicating with or do I just want to win?  I’m learning to use that corporate trick in my personal life that has one listen to another person’s business proposal and then ask the question:  “I think I heard you say. . .?”  If they answer the way you heard it, then you’re good to go.  If their answer is different from what you heard, then you better make a sharp U turn at the next available exit and reposition your heart’s GPS.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw

 “Men and women belong to different species and communications between them is still in its infancy.”  Bill

All text and photos by Eleanor and John Tomczyk © 2011 except where otherwise noted

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit
is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on October 14, 2011 in Uncategorized


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32 responses to “I Think I Heard You Say. . . .

  1. FatGirlUSA

    October 14, 2011 at 3:11 am

    Good read! Bridgette

    • etomczyk

      October 14, 2011 at 4:53 am

      Thanks Bridgette. I sure appreciate the support. All the best on your quest.

    • Maggie Ingram

      October 18, 2011 at 4:33 am

      Well, as always, I laughed out loud!! The part about child A and B, of course was my favorite. The funny innocence of young children. I so love it and miss it!!

      • etomczyk

        October 18, 2011 at 10:45 am

        Maggie: Thanks for reading my post this week. I do like the section of child A & B. I personally think that adults don’t do much better in trying to get our point across — we just have a larger vocabulary. All the best.

  2. Joanne

    October 14, 2011 at 4:07 am

    Ancient Chinese quote:

    “Not to let a word get in the way of its sentence;
    Nor to let a sentence get in the way of its intention;
    but to send your mind out
    to meet the intention
    — THAT is understanding…”

    • etomczyk

      October 14, 2011 at 4:55 am

      Joanne: I’d never heard that quote before. I like it! Thanks for all your support and encouragement. All the best!

  3. afrankangle

    October 14, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Alright … the beginning was a great setup for the conversation with Herman Cain – which had me laughing (although I know it was serious). Yet, the Shaw and Cosby quotes make an outstanding conclusion. Well done.

    • etomczyk

      October 14, 2011 at 1:28 pm

      Hi Frank. That is high praise indeed given your blog prowess. I so appreciate you taking the time to read my blog. And thanks for keeping us honest with your blog.

      • afrankangle

        October 17, 2011 at 3:52 pm

        Many thanks Eleanor for the kind words. Glad to see that we have the same philosophy: If a person takes the time to comment, take the time to respond. Keep smilin’!

  4. sondra smith

    October 14, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Humor with a biting edge!
    People hear without understanding what is being said. We all tend to paraphrase in our minds, skim over, and think of a response before the person talking is finished.
    When it comes to politics, the politicians count on this.
    Thank you for putting it in your blog. It is time for all of us to really listen, really hear and really understand the rhetoric that is being spewed at us! Well Done!

    • etomczyk

      October 14, 2011 at 6:15 pm

      Thanks Sondra! You’re so right. It makes you wonder what it is going to take for us (especially our leaders) to really get to a place where we speak clearly and hear effectively.

  5. georgefloreswrite

    October 14, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    Excellent article, Eleanor! Communication sounds like a simple thing, but it’s a miracle when we actually accomplish it. And how can we speak from the heart and convey good intentions and love when the receiver’s ears are full of cynicism?

    • etomczyk

      October 14, 2011 at 8:15 pm

      Thanks George. Long time no see. Hope you are well. Thanks for your comment. I wrote this after mulling over a couple of friendships that have fallen apart because of the hurt caused by miscommunication. I think we’ve all been there.

      I just left a message on your blog. Love your story. Keep writing. Cheers!

  6. Sylvester James LeBlanc

    October 14, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    I swear you are my favorite blogger! You’re post always keep me entertained. I always stop what I’m doing to read your blog, if you hear of any forest fires….it’s my fault for stopping and reading your blog. lol

    • etomczyk

      October 15, 2011 at 12:10 am

      Thanks Chris/Sylvester James: That is high praise, indeed. Don’t let any forests burns, but do continue to come back and read the new stories. Blessings to you and yours.

  7. DesiValentine

    October 15, 2011 at 3:23 am

    The Maalox and the burqa were probably good ideas, anyway, though, right? 😉 I’m a black woman living in Canada, but I bawled like a baby when Obama was voted in. My son will be a black man in a society where young men, and particularly young black men, are exceptionally good at limiting themselves. Obama meant “no limits” to us, that night. So, I cried. Herman Cain is what happens when people stop thinking, and the Tea Party seems exceptionally good at that. His situation would be much funnier, if it wasn’t so freakin’ sad.
    The “I think you said” trick is what we do with young children from early word-sounds onward. It’s ironic that at about the same time we start speaking well, we also tend to stop listening to each other.
    Great posts, as always. Thank you many times over for the much needed laugh!

    • etomczyk

      October 15, 2011 at 3:57 am

      Hi Desi. I know exactly what you mean about the river of tears that flowed in jubilation at the inaguration of President Obama. I also know what you mean that Herman Cain would be funny if he wasn’t so sad. If Herman gets anywhere near the White House, I may be joining you in Canada.

      My blog is written to bring laughter to hurting hearts. I am so glad my writing brought joy to your heart, if only for a few moments. All the best.

  8. An Observant Mind

    October 15, 2011 at 5:54 am

    Dear God, and how!

    My husband is American and I am Australian. Imagine the confusion we have when we *think* our countries both speak the same language? We have the usual opposite sex communication issues along with language barriers that neither one of us actually wants to acknowledge exists!

    Totally accurate post, and well worth the read! x

    • etomczyk

      October 15, 2011 at 12:54 pm

      I would love to be a fly on the wall in your home. The stories in miscommunication would be delicious. Have you done a blog on some of the mishaps in communication between the two of you? It would be delightful.

      Thanks for stopping by. Always appreciate it.

      • An Observant Mind

        October 16, 2011 at 6:03 am

        You inspired me! I did a post today, inspired by your response here, thank you!

      • etomczyk

        October 16, 2011 at 11:38 am

        That is so awesome! I just read your post and it is delightful. I’m going to pass on the “ankle-biter” name to my daughter to use about my grandson. Perfect!

      • An Observant Mind

        October 16, 2011 at 12:18 pm

        Awesome! I love that a kiddo on the other side of the world will have an aussie nickname because we met through blogging. Greatness! x

  9. theworldaccordingtoscarp

    October 15, 2011 at 6:38 am

    Very, very funny! Covering up my lumps and humps as we speak, cause I’m scared of you.

    • etomczyk

      October 15, 2011 at 12:57 pm

      My children have been saying that about me for years. That story took place during their teen years and they are now 27 and 29. They will tell you that they know not to mess with this mother 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving the first comment that made me laugh out loud. Cheers!

  10. Elyse

    October 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    What a great post! Thanks for the humorous side of our slide down the slippery slope!

    • etomczyk

      October 15, 2011 at 4:06 pm

      Thanks Elyse for stopping by. Appreciate the support. Cheers!

      • Elyse

        October 15, 2011 at 6:06 pm

        I’ll be back often. Keep writing great stuff! And thanks for visiting me too.

  11. Elyse

    October 17, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    I had just finished re-reading your piece, when I came upon this story about Cain’s re-do of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

    Imagine anyone voting for this turkey.

    • etomczyk

      October 17, 2011 at 11:58 pm

      This explains a lot, Elyse. He needs to stick with doing what he does best: selling pizza and bastardizing songs other people have written (I’ve seen several videos of him breakng out in song). As a former musician, I rate his singing as mediocre. (In other words, Hermie, don’t quit your day job!) As an American citizen, I’m making plans to move to Canada should he get anywhere near the presidency. The problem is that I can imagine people voting for him because there were a lot of people (people who should have known better) who were ready to commit hari-kari when Miss “I can see Russia from my house” did not end up in the White House. Oy vez mir.

  12. nonnie9999

    October 18, 2011 at 6:03 am

    so what are you trying to say?


    • etomczyk

      October 18, 2011 at 10:34 am

      Nonnie9999: LOL! You’re very clever. At first when I read your comment, I said to myself, “Oh no, I didn’t articulate my point of view well enough.” Thank God for the smiley face!

      • nonnie9999

        October 19, 2011 at 5:15 am

        never trust my words. always trust my emoticons. 🙂


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