I have this idea. What if we were to strike the word “and” from the English language? How terrible would that be? I’m thinking maybe not that terrible. Since I use it to connect and even begin sentences in all of my blogging, and even in my published print writing, in total violation of what I was taught in school, I’d have to rework a lot of things, including how I think and how I tell a story and where ideas begin and end and all that, and how I’d write this very sentence without it.
But I think there would be some serious benefits. I brought this idea to my friend Kelly not long ago. We were sharing stories about the challenge of getting children to a point where they can tell a good story, and the somewhat excruciating experience of hearing the details of their lives as they see it during the years preceding that glorious point.
As a bit of a talker myself and as a professor of communication, I certainly hold high the value of processing one’s life verbally and in the company of others. In fact, my partner very recently took a trip to Ireland with his sons to explore his family roots, some known and some newly discovered. What I probably missed the most was his conversational companionship. We talk through every minute detail of our lives, it seems, on a regular basis, and it has become an important part of the foundation for how I think and live and make decisions.
In the absence of that daily conversation, I felt mentally constricted for the two weeks he was gone. So truly, I find conversational processing of one’s day to be a necessary thing. And I do think that kids practicing this skill in their families is a good thing. I also think that once they reach the point in maturity where they can do some good audience analysis and shape their communications according to what might work best for that audience — in this case their family members — then conversation with them becomes something that is easy to engage with and enjoy. But wow… Till then… Yikes.
So, I was talking with my friend Kelly about family storytelling, especially that by young ones. I had recently survived some agonizing version of a tale by my son and thought that the real culprit in the agony was simply the word “and.” I wondered out loud how long a story could possibly last if one was unable to connect an endless stream of rather unassociated thoughts with one simple syllable. I mean, surely the fact that all those thoughts are unassociated would become clearer to the child, right? And surely the work of making those thoughts feel like a story would present a challenge for them so great that it would seem hardly worth their effort, right? And surely then the sheer number of stories told by little people with scarcely the skill to tell them would decrease? Or at the very least the same number of stories would be shorter? Right?
Now the disadvantage of striking “and” from the English language, from the point of view of parents, is that we too would lose the ability to connect a bunch of disconnected thoughts. I know my own father would really hate a world with no “and.” I base this knowledge on his “and another thing!” strategy for scolding us when my siblings and I were little. He would rant about one thing or another, storm out of our rooms and flick off the hallway light switch. But we never breathed a sigh of relief after that because we knew it was hardly over. Within a few minutes he would flick that hallway light switch again, storm back in with, “and another thing!” and then rant about something else we had done which he’d decided he’d kept quiet about long enough and now that he’s amped up he’d go ahead and cover it. I am choosing not to think about how much I’d miss the word. It’s such a good one. And maybe it’s not feasible, striking an entire and enormously important word from a language. But it would be fun for a while.
BIO: Dr. Mama (Amber Kinser) is a writer, feminist mother, professor, and speaker who lives in Tennessee. Check her out on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @DrMamaWit, and see her webpage. Kinser writes for the MamaBlogger365 series each Thursday at the Museum Of Motherhood, Mamapalooza and Mamazina Magazine.
Photo credit: Colored Pencils by Petr Kratochvil