Sentence Halves

by Tina Blue
August 14, 2005

         There are certain hearing person behaviors that we are all frustratingly familiar with--so much so that sometimes we even give them names that any other hearing-impaired person automatically recognizes, even if she has not encountered that label before.

           Here's what I mean. Suppose I say to you, "John drives me up a wall. He knows how deaf I am, but he still insists on doing the 'walk and talk with' me."

           Don't you immediately recognize the inconsiderate "hearie" behavior--the one where the person starts talking to you and then, instead of standing in one place and facing you so you can read his lips and capture as much as possible of his voice stream, he begins to traipse around the room--or even into another room altogether, probably turning his back on you in the process?

           This morning I encountered once again another all too common hearie behavior that that I don't have a name for. Maybe you can help me come up with a label.

           Here's the situation. Someone says something to you, but as people often do, she swallows the last several words of the sentence. You ask politely for a repetition, because that is, after all, standard procedure for us.

          And then she repeats, quite clearly, the first half of the sentence, but as soon as she gets to the part you missed the first time, she drops her voice and mumbles it, just as she did the first time.

          So you ask again for a repeat, and she again repeats the first half of the sentence as clear as day-maybe even more clearly, since you have indicated that you couldn't hear, so she wants to make sure that this time you do hear exactly what she is saying. In fact, by the third time through, she might be speaking so s-l-o-w-l-y-a-n-d-d-e-l-i-b-e-r-a-t-e-l-y that you want to scream at her to get on with it. 

          But of course, the very second she gets to the part of the sentence you missed the first two times, she picks up speed, drops her voice, and maybe even covers her mouth or turns her head to the side this time.

          By the third time any one of us will tell the other person that we caught the first half of the sentence all three times.  It's the second half of the sentence we have not been able to decipher. We don't need the first half again, we would say, so please just repeat the last part of the sentence.

         Has that ever worked for you? I know it hasn't worked for me.  By this time, the hearie is seriously annoyed, as hearies often are when we can't understand their mumblings.  Sometimes this produces the familiar, "Never mind!"  Or an exasperated, exaggerated sigh, followed by words yelled so loudly that they are too distorted to understand. Or perhaps the person will speak the problematic words at a glacial pace, with grossly exaggerated lip movements, which also renders them incomprehensible.

         And even at that, it is almost certain that the first part of the sentence, the one you heard perfectly the first time through, will be repeated.  No matter how many times you tell the other person that you understood the first part of the sentence, she will insist on repeating it--every single word, every single time.

        I have an admission to make: In situations like this, I sometimes end up being the one who gets exasperated enough to snarl, "Never mind!"

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