Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The King's Speech

As a kid, I loved this tongue twister: 

Betty Botter bought some butter,
"But," she said, "this butter's bitter.
If I bake this bitter butter,
It will make my batter bitter.
But a bit of better butter -
That would make my batter better."
So she bought a bit of butter,
Better than her bitter butter,
And she baked it in her batter,
And the batter was not bitter.
So 'twas better Betty Botter

Bought a bit of better butter.

This ditty kept running through my mind as we watched, "The King's Speech", partly because King George was known as Bertie to his familiars - and his brother, cruelly would call him B-b-b-b-bertie. The film made me appreciate the ease with which most of us speak. Tongue twisters and word games were a source of great fun for my family. Volumes of hot air blew around our household generated by all except my mother who thankfully was a born listener.  A French speaker, even after years of living in an English speaking environment, she still mentally translated many things, slowing her down. She was embarrassed about her accent and her faux pas; the rest of us being wordophiles, we jumped all over her for the smallest mistake. No wonder she talked less and less (to us) and listened more and more.  

Ironically, yesterday after running around buying building materials in Temecula, I stopped at Vince's for take-out spaghetti, where the manager is deaf. Deaf from childhood - he has a speech impediment. Between the two of us, communication was almost impossible, both trying to read each other's lips. Finally we had to have a waitress help sort it out. 

Being half deaf is a kind of speech impediment - the conversation squelcher. People quickly tire of repeating things to you and fewer and fewer conversations ensue. In answer to questions I can't hear clearly, I frequently guess at the "correct" answer and say something inappropriate. This is a real turn-off for people who quickly realize my audience is worse than no audience at all. Because listening involves strain, I want business people to give me the fast facts and the fast facts only. It's the very worst in retail stores in which the so-called background music is ubiquitous and now, to me, annoying and nerve racking. I frequently leave stores because of the noise and recently I've begun letting people know that the music has driven me out. 

Watching Colin Firth playing King George, I could feel anxiety gradually engulfing me like a shroud.  On the edge of my seat, I (and the rest of the audience) struggled along with him to squeeze out the words. As the King walks into the recording area to deliver the speech, the feeling of dread is powerful. The camera cuts from the sweating, struggling King to Lionel (Geoffrey Rush) his coach, standing in front of him oozing peace and calm.  

The film is wonderful. Richard turned to me at the end and said into my good ear, "flawless". 

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