Patterns of Thought

So, one day in Armenia, I was walking down the street with a few Americans. One of them confessed he was quite tired of how “narrow-minded” Armenians we talked to were. Granted, most of the people we talked to were of a certain demographic with very little education.  But he admitted he was tired of hearing the same opinions, same complaints, and getting the same responses all the time.

I just smirked and told him, “Just wait till you get back to America. You will start to notice the same sort of thing. Most of us share the same opinions, give the same responses, and have a track of about the same range of complaints.” Etc.  He resisted my analogy, but I’m sure he’ll agree with me eventually.

(Well, I AGREE WITH ME. *amused*)

Especially since the WorldCon Incident With TheAuthor included just such an example. (Among other things, he had the guts to tell me how I was saying my own name wrong.)

My name is Laura, pronounced like “Lah-ruh”. Most people, as soon as they hear my name, ask how it’s spelled.

Them: L-A-R-A?

Me: No. L-A-U-R-A.

Them, automatically: So, “Lore-uh”.

This is when I generally give up caring and let them have their way because their next response is usually how “L-A-U-R-A” makes “Lore-uh” and “L-A-R-A” makes “Lah-ruh”.

This is a typical cultural response that is utterly unfounded except by tradition and programmed responses.  If anyone actually stopped to think about it, they would run into this problem:

“Au” in English makes an “ah” sound.  See the following words, autograph, automobile, aural, daughter,  naughty, audio.

“Au” doesn’t make an “oh” sound in English, otherwise audio would be pronounced more like olio.  “Au” does make an “oh” sound in French.  See the following, au, aux.  (I think it makes an “ow” in German? Not entirely sure on that one.)  But I am not in France and my name is not French. It has its roots in Latin with the laurel tree.  (Pronunciation is split on “laurel” in English, depending on region and age of the speaker.)

So, applying the rules of English for all but the word “laurel”, my name should be pronounced “lahr-uh” or “lahr-ah”.

You can see why I usually don’t say anything. There is no point in explaining. Culture is as culture does and there are bigger battles to fight in which cultural boxes are most important to dig people out of. My name is just a word.

The above is to show you, however, that cultural patterns of thought DO exist.

The way to broaden our scope and widen our horizons? Read lots. Learn new things, study the works of multiple cultures within their original languages. Talk to lots of different people. Live in–not just visit–multiple nations across multiple continents to try to break free of your cultural neighborhood. Realize that you are not as open-minded as you think. We all are rather narrow-minded, but narrow-mindedness is not an entirely bad thing. It is how we survive. We NEED our patterns of thought. We don’t have the wherewithal to challenge every single aspect of our lives every single day of our lives.  But a regular challenge is a good thing. Learning  and analyzing is good.

With that introduction, I think you should read Aliette de Bodard’s essay on U.S. tropes.  She has some interesting food for thought.


4 responses to “Patterns of Thought

  • Joe Vasicek

    Huh, I had no idea your name was pronounced that way. I guess it’s kind of like Leia–is it “lee-uh” or “lay-uh”? Because there’s Princess Leia from Star Wars, but some of my friends pronounced it differently…believe it or not, I spent a significant chunk of my childhood wondering about this.

    I once had an Armenian missionary companion whose name was Avanesyan. People would shake my hand and say “Elder…vas-eh-sek?” and I’d correct them (“it’s Vasicek, like cash a check”), and then they’d look at his nametag…and they wouldn’t even try!

    We have an old family joke where Joseph William Vasicek just misheard the customs agent at Ellis Island and said “what’s a Czech?” at the wrong point in the naturalization interview. But really, Vasicek is a good Czech name–though in the motherland, it’s spelled Wasziczek. Imagine trying to pronounce that, hehe. 🙂

  • Charlie Holmberg

    I’ve heard the Lah-rah/Lore-ah argument so many times it’s ridiculous. I’ve known Lauras who really don’t care, and some who are sticklers for it. (I once met a Brittany who was deeply offended if you said “Brit-nee” instead of “Brit-ta-nee.”) Ha.

    But I liked your “That’s how Americans are, too,” analogy. If anything, we’re more-so. XD

    • Laura

      Lol. I gave up caring in kindergarten. Some people have gotten away with calling me things like “Zara” because of how little I care. As long as I know you’re talking to me, I’ll respond! …They do get kind of embarrassed once they figure out my name, though. So I should probably take more of an issue, but I don’t.

      Then again, that Brittany/Brittney thing is a tad on the ridiculous side!

      And yeaaaah. We’re human, too. Though sometimes we like to think we got the superhuman mutant-X gene. XD

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