Thursday, 13 May 2010

How many words

do you need to get the message across?
One of the many good qualities my father displays is a capacity to laugh at himself. One of the things he knows about himself is that, in his words, he is 'too wordy'. He will write twenty words when I will write ten.
He has a degree in English literature (with a sub in Latin) and he has read more than most people I know. Is it this fact that causes him to use so many words? I do not know.
When he needs to write something like a non-personal letter he will often come to me with his rough version and say, "Tighten it up." I take it away and come back with something half the length. He shakes his head and signs the bottom of the letter without a murmur. We will often work through a personal condolence note together. He does not write much else these days.
I think his problem might be that he used to write what is known as "patter" - the running commentary used by entertainers like magicians. That depends on being able to say a great deal in order to distract the audience from what you are doing with your hands or the equipment in them. You learn to use almost as many misdirectives as a politician in that setting.
What puzzles me however is that my father has male friends who are just as "wordy" as he is.
He has one male friend, a very good and caring man, whose voice is permanently husky - an indication of how much he talks. You get all the smallest details from this man. He branches out and bounces back to the main topic again - like a monkey swinging up a tree. He has a cousin who will talk for more than an hour on the 'phone. His best friend also spent more than an hour on the 'phone last night.
I sometimes take messages for the 'circle of care' my father is involved in - and then have to pass them on to the next person in the circle. I took one yesterday. It was long and involved.
I knew who the writer had to be. As I was passing it on to the next person, a woman, she said,
"I can guess who wrote this one. You know I really do think men use more words than women."
I think she might be right.

5 comments:

andewallscametumblindown said...

My husband is definitely more wordy than I am, but I think, in general, the criteria for wordiness don't include gender. ~Miriam

Rachel Fenton said...

It may be a geberational thing - when being a conversationalist was an entertainment in its own right...my husband spends a great deal of time and thought to say/write very little..I write/say a great deal in very little time! In my next life I will be quiet.

Are you as succinct with your speech, Cat, as with your written words?

Rachel Fenton said...

or a generational thing...nothing to do with pets or rodents at all!

catdownunder said...

Now what do I say to that Rachel,
"Yes." or "Yes, I think so." :-)

Rachel Fenton said...

I bet you talk for England!