in the mail the other day. It was from QVC so I quickly deduced it was from my mother. She loves QVC, but more about that another time. Anyway, after I opened the box and carefully put away it’s contents, I called my mother.
I let her tell me about her day a bit and answered some questions about mine and then said, “Hey, I got a big box in the mail today!” and she said, “Oh, Happy Easter.”
There was a pause as my dissertation addled brain tried to make sense of the syllables that she had just pronounced.
When I was taking American Sign Language classes, someone once described a process that they called “closure.” It meant something like honing in on an idea before the other person articulates it. For instance, if someone is about to tell you about the new car they bought, your brain starts coming up with known examples in your mind of names of cars. Honda, Toyota, Chevrolet, Pontiac… So that when that person begins to spell out the name of their car, they really only need to start C-H-E-V and you know what they are going to spell before they finish.
We use it in spoken language too. If someone is telling you about some great sushi place, before they begin to tell you the name, your mind (if you know anything about sushi places) will start to generate the names of the sushi places you know. That’s closure. If, on the other hand, you’ve never been to eat sushi in your town and the person says something like “Oragami” (the name a of a local sushi place) your brain might stutter a moment, thinking…”oragami? Isn’t that some kind of folding paper thing?”
I am usually pretty good at closure. I have a wide range of experiences in the world and with other languages and with people accents (like my mom) and I am usually pretty good at filling in gaps, figuring out what someone means and doing the closure bit. So when my mom said “Happy Easter” my brain stuttered.
I recovered after maybe 30 seconds enough to say thank you, but days later, my brain is still using up a little brain time wondering what frozen lobster tails (which were in the box) have to do with Easter (which I had no idea was coming up). Not to mention the fact that I am pretty much a vegetarian.