Cabalistic Element Naming—A Semi-Practical Use for Linguistics—Ph. Isaacs, N.V., Ph.D. and Hume N. Ih-Tees SpecGram Vol CLXIV, No 2 Contents Orbital Linguistics—A Report on the State of the Starfield—Hu B. Ble and Al Zweistein

Senility Sufferer vs. Master Pragmatician
Recommending a New Standard for Differential Diagnosis

by Ms. Mǒu M. Mǒu (age 74)
Department of Linguistics and Englishes
Shénme University, Nǎlǐ, China

One of the most offensive terms of recent decades is “senior moment”, used to refer to a momentary lapse of focus, memory, or concentration, and which is applied only to elders who should be respected rather than ridiculed. Such lapses are not uncommon among all age groups, and are humorously and not disrespectfully referred to as “brain farts” among Gen X, Millennials, and other younger cohorts.

Not only is the specific term “senior moment” ageist, it is also ridiculously inaccurate in many instances, instances where linguists, at least, should be able to recognize the true situation. For example, consider the following utterance, spoken by Mortimer K.:

“Martha, could you ple— ...”

Now some might consider this kind of trailing off mid-sentence to represent a “senior moment”, however, if the result is that Martha gets up from her seat, closes the open window, fetches Mortimer a shawl, and turns up the heat, Mortimer’s utterance has been, from a pragmatic perspective, very effective communication.

Consider another example, uttered by Bertha S.:

“Irving, do the, uh ...”

At this point, Irving turned on the TV, changed the channel to Bertha’s “stories”, fed the cat, changed the litter box, and went out to rake the yard. This is not a “senior moment”, but rather the work of a master pragmatician.

Consider this final example, an exchange between Eunice K. and Walter M. (who are in their 70s):

E: “Walter, did you ...”
W: “Yes, dear.”
E: “And the ...”
W: “Yes, dear.”
E: “What about her, uh ...”
W: “Yes, dear.”
E: “And the ...”
W: “Yes, dear.”
E: “Did he ...”
W: “No, dear.”
E: “And you ...”
W: “Of course, dear.”
E: “Thanks, sweetie.”
W: “Of course, dear. Do you want to ...”
E: “On Thursday?”
W: “No, I’ve ...”
E: “Oh, right. Maybe ...”
W: “No, you ...”
E: “Oh, right. What about ...”
W: “Great.”
E: “Okay. All done.”

To an outsider, this may seem indistinguishable from the blithering of doddering old idiots, but in fact it represents a high level negotiation between a husband and wifewho have been married for almost 50 years, and who were acting as attorneys on opposing sides of a business contract. They are valued by their clientele for their cost-effective efficiency, which minimizes billable hours on a contract-by-contract basis.

These master pragmaticians have taken the use of shared context, communicative cooperation, communal knowledge, and conventional schemata to new heights. Rather than doddering old idiots having “senior moments”, these are vibrant, effective people who have pared down their use of language to an almost incompressible minimum. Their abilities and accomplishments should be respected, admired, appreciated, not ridiculed.

Cabalistic Element NamingA Semi-Practical Use for LinguisticsPh. Isaacs, N.V., Ph.D. and Hume N. Ih-Tees
Orbital LinguisticsA Report on the State of the StarfieldHu B. Ble and Al Zweistein
SpecGram Vol CLXIV, No 2 Contents