Sunday, 9 February 2014

Analogy of the day: language is washing the dishes

Here's my analogy of the day: we use language rather like we do the washing up.

Washing up involves many different jobs, many different things to wash - and dry - and there are many ways of doing it: sink, dishwasher, or improvised ways when we go camping, using other water sources, sand, damp cloth. Some items we don't wash - millions of people round the world have cooked out of a single pot over a fire, which is never washed. I've eaten wonderful meals out of such a pot used by a very, very old woman in the Pyrenees who was born around 1885. Even within processes like washing in a bowl there are wide variations - do you do the least dirty stuff first? Or do you change the water? Do you rinse? When you pack the dishwasher, do you stick to the slots provided by the manufacturer or do you improvise? do you put sharp knives point down in the cutlery rack, to avoid accidents?

And how do you learn how to pack a dishwasher? Rules? Or watching others? A bit of both? And do you experiment with other packing methods? And if you haven't got a dishwasher, does it mean you can't wash up?

(I'm sure you'll think of ways in which the analogy doesn't work...but stick with it for while and see what happens...)