Sunday, 18 March 2012
The Hardest Word to Say is ‘Stutter’
Verbal stammerers are easy enough to interpret. For instance, when a stammering school headmaster says, ‘You’re going to get the cocaine,’ we anticipate a dose of corporal punishment more than we do a drugs push. But what about people who develop a stammer communicating with sign language? In signing, the word ‘coat’ is got over with the action of hefting a coat over the shoulders (although how you then finesse that to say ‘jacket’ or ‘jerkin’ is of interest, or yet to be pioneered). The signing stammerer will however put on many coats. The message is ambiguous. His audience will be left wondering: ‘Am I communicating with a stammerer or somebody with a circulatory problem?’
Broadening out slightly from this observation, we ask ourselves should we need to rewrite history? And why? Revisit footage of Adolf Hitler delivering his haunting speeches and we see why. In Hitler, we recognise a stammering signer. We realise that the hand signals he makes, he repeats several times over (see clip). Revisionists will say that the hard-of-hearing attending his rallies would have been quite sympathetic towards the Nazi leader, commonly remarking: ‘I haven’t a clue what he’s saying, but that Fuhrer’s got himself a terrible stammer’.
That bloke who wrote the screenplay to the ‘King’s Speech’ must be thinking there’s a sequel in the offering. ‘The Fuhrer’s Speech’. The kaiser’s therapist trying all sorts to shape up his subject for public speaking. The verbal stammerer will be encouraged to speak with a potato in their mouth, downgrading to something like a crisp as their speech improves. And similarly – ‘Mein Fuhrer, you must try again zis times wiz a potato in your hand,’ the therapist urges, attempting to apply the potato thing to the stammering signer’s problem. That doesn’t work and Adolf is urged to lift increasingly heavier loads of potatoes, until that is, he is asked to curl a 56 pound bag… He cracks. ‘Do you realise vot message this sends out to our foe, psychologically, on a propaganda level? Do you even know who ve are fighting?’ he barks at the feckless therapist. ‘Nein, nein, nein… I refuse to elevate King Edwards!’