Random Definitions – Consider the Source

Aren’t definitions funny critters? Oh sure… you can use “Dictionary.com” or Merriam-Websters Collegiate “big enough to cause a hernia” dictionary to look up words. But the funny thing about the English dictionary? Words can mean different things. The words can EVEN mean different things – to different people. Some random definitions I have encountered in the last week include:

Now: To the mother who demanded the trash be emptied, it means immediately. To the 20-year-old son who will get to it eventually, it means sometime today.

D-cup: “What does ‘D-cup’ mean to you?” Response: “Male or female?” Speechless thought: “Wha’…   ?”

McDonalds: To the over-extended, ‘I forgot to thaw out the chicken’ parent, it means SUPPER. To the health-conscious, it means ‘heart attack in a bag’.

Snap: Daughter: “Oh snap, I forgot my key!” Mother: snaps fingers and looks quizzically at daughter. Daughter: (raises eyebrows and shoots an exasperated DUH look at mother…)

Normal: To a teenager, it means someone who “fits in”. To a dog, it means it can be eaten. To a person who happens to have a disability, it means “treated like everyone else”.

Yup! You often have to consider the source to understand how people choose to define common words. The word “normal” has cropped up a couple of times in the past several weeks for me.

First occurrence:

Kyersten and I were at Costco looking around and purchasing some bulk items to take back to Virginia for college. A lady did a double-take, looked at Chloe (my assistance dog), looked at my head and kept walking a few steps. However, she immediately stopped and left her cart, pocketbook and items and trotted over to where Kyersten and I stood to say, “Excuse me! Is that a cochlear implant?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Oh my husband has one of those. How long have you had yours?” she asked with curiosity.

I preceded to tell her a little bit about my own activation 5 years ago and hearing health history. I was trying to keep an eye on her cart (with pocketbook that screamed, “Steal me. Someone steal me” in it), so was a little startled when she interrupted my nervous glances toward her cart to say, “But your speech! It’s so normal!”

In talking with her, it seems her husband was deafened at a young age and was essentially without sound for 27 years before he received his own bilateral implants. He evidently has a noticeable speech impediment. But what is “normal”? I have met late-deafened and congenitally deaf people from all over the United States. “Normal speech”? Some would argue my southern accent is not “normal” for the DC-Metro area. How one person with hearing difficulties speaks, is much like an individual accent. There isn’t anything “abnormal” about it. My son has perfect (selective) hearing, and he has a speech impediment. It is “normal” for him though. How pronounced his own speech difficulties sound, depends on how hard he chooses to enunciate words and regulate his speed. Who determined what “normal speech” was and determined the “yard stick” by which to measure all speech?

At Pearle Vision Center:

A lady and her daughter stopped to admire Chloe who was in a down/stay. “Oh what a beautiful working dog! Are you training her?”

“Oh! No… Chloe graduated 3 years ago. She’s always training, but I’m not her original trainer” I replied.

“Oh! You mean she is YOUR partner?” the surprised woman asked.

“Yes. She’s a hearing/assist and balance assistance dog. I am late-deafened and have Meniere’s disease”, I cheerfully replied.

“Oh wow… you look so n-norm- normal” she stuttered out (since she realized how inappropriate that was as soon as she started saying it!)

I just smiled and she walked away embarrassed.

Normal?

Very likely, this world would be a better place if people didn’t go around labeling others as NORMAL or NOT.

To someone, somewhere… you aren’t “normal” if you choose to define the word as “not like you”!

Denise Portis

© 2011 Personal Hearing Loss Journal