Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The King's Speech

I don't usually do book reviews, but this one I thought was special.
The King's Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy
We saw the movie, of course, and I was rather doubtful about the book because
     1. it was written after the movie
     2. it was written by the grandson of the speech coach
     3. it has the idiotic subtitle of "How one man saved the British Monarchy."

Nevertheless, it was a wonderful book.  I borrowed the audio book from the library so I got to hear King George VI's actual speeches, and knowing everything he went through just to give them made them especially touching.  Personally, I think everyone should read this book--not necessarily because it is great literature or that everyone should care about the British Monarchy--but because it is a great portrayal of a man struggling with the most public speech impediment of all time.

Perhaps I identify with him more than most, because I have a slight speech impediment involving the letter "s," and could readily identify with the humiliation he experienced.  I can only imagine what the future king went through before finding Logue because one is always surrounded by the well-meaning but horrible "helpful" people just waiting to correct your speech, showing you how to to it "right" without caring at all if it embarrassed you at all.  Imagine trying to just talk and having people constantly interrupting and pointing out what you're doing wrong--one of the reasons I never correct anyone's grammar or spelling unless they ask.  Nagging might boost the ego of the person doing it, but it doesn't help anyone else, and only makes them self-conscious/angry/hurt or rebellious.  In my case, out of self defense I started avoiding any words likely to be problematic--a habit I continue to this day.  I was fascinated to discover that one of the ways the King and Logue dealt with the speeches and radio broadcasts was to scan the speech ahead of time for similar "problem" areas.  It  reinforced to me that no one ever "cures" a speech problem--one just learns to work with it or around it.   For me, any string of words with too many "s" sounds can be hard, especially if I am tired.  It got better when I got braces because it was partly a tooth alignment issue, but has never truly gone away.  When I worked for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, we were actually supposed to answer the phone as "Cystic Fibrosis Foundation," which I could do early in the day or if there weren't too many phone calls or if I wasn't tired or if I hadn't been speaking a lot already.  But I often resorted to just "CF Foundation," for which I was always yelled at by my supervisor, but since she was pretty much just a viper anyway and would have had something to be mad at, I just let her yell than explain.  One is hardly likely to admit something that makes one self-conscious to someone like that.

One of the reasons I've been thinking about this book since listening to it last month is the "War on Christmas" rhetoric that we go through every year.  Besides there being more than one religion in the world, lots of holidays this time of year, and even the most extreme "Christian" must recognize that there are THREE federal holidays in the span of 6 weeks and that makes "Happy Holidays" far more appropriate simply for the fact of it being plural, "Merry Christmas" is fairly hard for some of us to say.  Not quite as horrific as "Season's Greetings," but the girl going through speech therapy with me who had a MUCH bigger problem than I do, couldn't pronounce the letter "r."  As her family moved away, I have no idea how far she got with her speech therapy, but if she did get it under control, it was with a LOT of hard work, and things like "Happy Holidays" would be a good cover-up for her as well.  So in addition to being just pompous and bigoted, the arrogant souls going around insisting that "Merry Christmas" could be making a lot of people even more self-conscious about what they're already self-conscious about to begin with.

So, with all that said, if I could have my own personal Christmas wishes this year, they would be:

1.  Don't nag anyone about anything.  Nag them to exercise and they won't.  Nag them about their weight and you'll make the problem worse.  Nag them about their speech and you'll make something humiliating even worse.  No one is on this earth to go around "correcting" everyone else, and no one will ever thank you for it.  Just give them kindness.

2.  Don't make assumptions.  People may not be doing things for the reason you think they are doing them.

3.  Be joyous.  If anyone wishes you a happy or merry ANYTHING, take it in good spirit.  I may struggle with "Merry Christmas" at times, but I could say "F--- you" without difficulty.  Accept kindness as it is offered and let it go at that. 
A kind wish in any wording is still a kind wish...........


Son of MCMLXXV said...

Awesome. I should read this book and I should take in the film as well.

Abby said...

I love what you said. I saw this movie and was very touched but, hadn't thought of it in awhile. There often are other sides to things - so easy to judge without knowing the whole story. What a great reminder that kindness is always in order - and presented in such a wonderful way. And, Happy Holidays to you! :)

Alacaeriel said...

I also have difficulty with some sounds, too, including "r". Merry Christmas? When I was a child, it sounded closer to "Mewwy Chwistmas". Can manage the sounds now, but it was hard. Much prefer Happy Holidays!

Now... I think I might grab that audiobook... Already have the dvd, though.


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