Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

04 Aug 2003, 9:33 a.m.

My mom used to tell me, "listen to people mean,…

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2003 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

My mom used to tell me, "listen to people mean, not what they say." To wit (Salon, may need a Day Pass):

I am a literalist. To my frequent dismay, I listen to and believe the actual words that come out of people's mouths. I often have to ask my wife what they were actually saying. I have had to learn the hard way that many, perhaps most, people do not use words for their dictionary meaning at all. They use them more like gestures in an elaborate dance, to convey an ineffable and pleasing message that may be internally contradictory but is emotionally true to them.

The columnist's advice includes encouragement to date an engineer.