Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Rampant mastication at the dining table

We've been making a concerted effort recently to break our bad habit of scoffing our dinner on our laps in front of the telly. The dining table, for so long little more than a convenient oaken dumping ground for the random collection of knick-knacks that nobody can be bothered to put away, is finally back in use for it's intended purpose. The previous residents have been tucked away in assorted locations, soon to be forgotten.
I admit it really is far preferable to eat at the table, but it does seem odd to me that tradition dictates that the evening meal should be a time of family togetherness where everyone talks about how their day has been and suchlike.
However, I was always taught that it was bad manners to speak with my mouth full, and given that from the moment I pick up my fork and commence shovelling to the time when my plate is cleared, there are very few seconds where there isn't food in my mouth. Clearly this doesn't leave much time for intense philosophical debate.
As my fork returned to it's final resting place on the plate this evening, we began to discuss this matter. My son tried to contribute through a mouthful of stir-fry and noodles, coming out with an indistinct mumble that even my practised ears could not decipher. I pointed out that it was hard to understand speech through a veil of soggy mastication, and was met with the usual look of bewilderment which indicates that Mr Dictionary has once again departed on an extended vacation. Having sorted out the confusion by use of words with the minimum number of syllables I suggested he refrain from talking while stuffing his mouth like a Gannet. Not wanting to complicate matters further, my explanation (brought about by his extremely limited ornithological knowledge) was simply that it's a seabird with a voracious appetite. This didn't help, so in an attempt to clear up the meaning of 'voracious' I figured an appropriate synonym would be 'rampant'. When he questioned this word I gave up with the conversation, his lamentable vocabulary, and the entire school system. I said a rampant was a small fluffy animal with long ears, and left the table to do the washing up.
If the younger generations don't get their head out of their video games and spend some time reading books, the English language is going to wither and die.
I'm no Stephen Fry, but I still get frustrated at the atrocious standard of spelling and grammar that I see and hear every day.
The only conclusions I came to after this evening's episode are that whoever said about the whole conversation-at-the-table thing must have eaten a lot of cold meals, and that the time for talking is after the meal when you're sat on the sofa with a large glass of wine and a contented smile.