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Friday Afternoon Confessional: on ‘that’

I confess I feel somewhat different. I further confess that I am different from people who are really different in not being really – perceptibly – different. If I would do my life over, I would not be be bothered to do anything different except what I will do from now onwards. What I did was all fine; what I’m going to do just doesn’t cut it. I confess I’ll continue to live in the future where I know the right thing to do is to live in the past.

It’s complicated.

What I’m going to do is to think about writing a treatise on the word ‘that’. What I’m not going to do is just that. I confess that I admire this thing called language. Mainly because it isn’t anyone’s to call ‘That’s mine!’ (or ‘ours’ for that matter because ‘ours’ is the chicken shit way of saying ‘mine’).

Language starts with ‘that’. That’s what I think at least and I confess I’d like to convince you of it.

She points her finger and says: “That?”. In getting a response she doesn’t just feel like a God – she is god: bridging something out there to something not quite anywhere but still located in the holy triangle of what is pointed to, herself and he who gave a response. That could have literally been an apple. That most definitely was the metaphorical apple. Henceforward she’ll fire her ‘that’s’ like a machine gun: “That?”, “That.”, “That!”. She will shoot holes in the real world and conquer her own world inhabited by the ghosts of other machine gun operators. She might grow up to trade her machine hun for a bazooka, because that world and this are equal in that nothing stays, without effort, equal.

The only linguistic competitor to ‘that’ is ‘no’ but not ain’t that. Anything can say no by just walking away. Just add the ‘t’ of that to it and you get to the worm in the apple. You get to ‘not’. The word that puts up defenses – marks differences in ‘that’ world. It is where the struggles begin or rather where the struggle for life transfers in a struggle of words. He says that … I do not get it … obviously this means that … Mathematicians have tried to surround ‘that’ with p and something that rhymes with roof to make it as irrelevant as the exact composition of the physicist’s billiard balls. They’re just saying that because they find it unfair that one man’s ‘that’ can blow away her ‘that’s’ just like that; because he’s trained as a ninja in words and she’s just – well – keeping the house.

I confess all of this is opaque but that’s what ‘that’ does: it makes for neither black nor white. It is the place we live in but not – exactly – the place we were born in – where the weak can be strong. True, most forget their weakness and wield their strengths but there is at least the hope that things may be different.

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June 5, 2015 - Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional, language, language acquisition, life of the mind | ,

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