The limits of my language

Wittgenstein famously wrote: The limits of my language are the limits of my world. Well, that’s how I remember it. (I did a course once, and Wittgenstein and de Saussure were the venerables we had to study. Chomsky too, gratefully.) It’s stuck with surprise given that language is my thing; and I’ve made “I’m good with language”  one of my key identifiers. People admire that. Some even possibly envy that. Others, yet, react to it. Too much language or a foreign language to describe ways of being or perspectives on any given thing can be an assault for those who don’t have that particular nomenclature. Back when I was intent on contorting myself so I could climb a corporate swing ladder (the things we think we should do!), the business coach I’d been sent to for “corporate assimilation” said: “people don’t understand what you’re saying to them. It freaks them out”. Who knew, I thought, that there could be too much language and that it could limit my world.

Recently I decided to get over a language barrier and learn another language. A common one. And I use it. With a huge disclaimer. It’s opened up relationships with others. They appreciate the effort, I see. I wonder if that’s why they throw their arms around me (some of them) and say: “I wish I could have you here forever”. Or, so preciously, “I think I’m in love with you.” and “We feel so comfortable with you.” Or is it that I speak the language of feelings with them. I say, variously, “I imagine you’re feeling stressed” and “Change is fearsome stuff” and “Don’t be scared, I’m here to help you.” and “I’m so grateful for how warm and kind you are to me. How welcome you make me feel when I visit you. It means so much to me.”

Yet, I forget that not everyone has this language. Or, at least, that many people have public and private language, friendship and business language, adult and children language, black and white language…., and do not integrate the two. And that the expectation, indeed the clamouring need that some others express, is that one splits oneself and offers only the half that they can integrate on any given day.

Thus, I am limited.



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