There was a discussion on Instagram about a man who was confused by a doctor giving him his medical diagnosis and how an intern felt the need to go back and explain to the man, in more plain terms, so he would better grasp the discussion of his medical future.
The intern suspected, quite correctly, that the medical jargon confused the man, but that he (the man) didn’t wish to show his ignorance and thus, said he understood when asked, even though he didn’t.
The discussion sparked arguments after comments about the intern “dumbing down” the dialog so the man could better understand. Many took exception to the term “dumbing down” and a lot of arguing escalated after that.
I entered my comment that what I felt the intern did was less “dumbing down” and more “plain speaking” to which someone replied “Isn’t plain speak just another version of “dumbing down”?
Here is my reply for anyone interested in what I see is the difference between the two terms:
To “dumb something down”, is to consider yourself more intelligent or educated than someone else. It is a position of feeling superior in intellect or higher placed than another. The saying itself is an insult to others who are just as intelligent, but may not communicate the same way.
“Plain speak”, however, is a term that accepts readily the understanding that clever words don’t necessarily equate to more intelligence. The term “plain speak” refers to the manner of speaking that allows for those who know just as much if not more than you do, but simply don’t feel the need to put on airs in the form of using “big language” to convey their intelligence. Speaking plainly takes “intelligent speech-making” out of the equation and just gets down to firm facts. A plain spoken person accepts that some people know their shit quite well..they just don’t use the same words others do to talk about it.
Atticus Finch is the best example of a plain spoken person I can give you. He’s a vastly intelligent man, but he speaks in a manner that allows anyone to understand his meaning. Language is not tbe only area where experience and know-how are found. Sometimes the wisest person is also the least pretentious. This is proven quite readily when the person who was confused by big inflated language grasps the understanding of a thing, the moment someone changes wording of a thing from extraneous to universal. The translation of language from intellectual to common isn’t “dumbing it down” as the person isn’t lacking comprehension, merely proper context.
The reason this discussion interested me, is that it is part of the thoughts behind one of my poems entitled: Your slip is showing from ages ago, and I felt it resonating with me. My thoughts on the topic are still surprisingly unchanged.