Readers! Wake up! How did you read that title?  Did you see “Everybody-Is-Family” or “The-Family-Belonging-to-Everybody” and why did you choose that reading?

I didn’t really consider the question when I typed it, but I intended it to be the second of those options. The post was going to be about how my family was different, and better of course, than most others. Hold that thought; we’ll come back to it later.

I am intrigued by words and a person’s perceptions of them. What you hear, or read, in context might have an entirely different meaning if they appeared by themselves.

Consider the children’s game of Gossip. You know, you stand ten kids in a line and whisper a phrase to Kid Number One. She whispers what she heard to K2 and he passes it on to K3. By the time the phrase makes it out of the mouth of the tenth in line, it has no resemblance at all to whatever the original phrase might have been. And this, dear friends, is without deliberate renovation by any of the people in the line, and also without any explanation of context at the beginning.

I wonder if the message would stay closer to the original if a photo got passed along with the message. How about giving a bunch of ten-year-olds “Big feet run in the family” with no visual help. To begin with, would they even recognize the old phrase run-in-the-family? Maybe, maybe not. Those few murmured words might be anything at all by the end of the line. But if the whisper happened to be accompanied by a picture of a clown’s red nose and puffy hair, chances are that the gist of the message would get through.

Move this concept on to e-mail, or blogs, and the potential for misuinderstanding goes through the roof. Without the guidance of a twinkle in the eye a small joke becomes a hurtful comment. A simple query turns into an invitation to flood the inbox with waves of spam. A person’s life can be changed because he pushed the “send” button without taking a second look.

I try to avoid political discussions. I’ve decided I hate everyone who has chosen to be a politiciian instead of a person. I know deep inside me that this is unreasonable, that I’ve been fed quotes and “facts” out of context by media that need this kind of truncation and skewing to make their dollars. Nevertheless, I’m the fourth or fifth kid in the line, and I have to be very careful that what I pass on to the next kid is as truthful and accurate as I can make it. There are a lot of faces out there to go by, but some of them have forgotten to put on the red nose, and I could easily be misled.

So, look for the whole story. Watch what happens “when we come back after the break” and take what they, and I, tell you with a grain of salt (and one of sugar where it’s appropriate) because, like it or not, everybody is my family. I care what happens to us.

I’ll see you again, after the commercial.