Friday, June 10, 2011

Living Without a Uvula;if you call that "living"

Fig. 1. Douchebag.
Coming out of the long, tedious, and frankly painful recovery process, I am now kind of emerging and taking stock of what's changed, apart from being able to sleep without choking. They say there are men of words and men of action - I'm definitely in the former camp. I'm a talker, because if you grow up loving learning (and surrounded by proud ignoramuses) and dark (surrounded by blondes) and fat (surrounded by natural athletes) and funny (surrounded by dull people) you really only have one edge, so you develop it. Being funny got me out of a lot of scrapes when I was a kid - making your persecutors laugh defuses whatever it is in them that wants to beat you up, and might even earn you a couple of friends. And then later, girls seem to appreciate funny and lumpy a lot more than ripped and assholish [Fig. 1]. But it's all about vocal control - pitching, volume, punctuating with noises, doing funny accents, that kind of thing. Cheap tricks compared to real acting, of course, but I found that those skills have served me well in the classroom to keep students engaged. If they're entertained, they're paying attention, at least.

Fig. 2. Oinkiotomy
My surgeon really did a number on my neck, for which I am grateful, but it's taking some getting used to. I kind of had to re-learn how to talk, which didn't take very long, but I am still having trouble with some words, or when I try to talk fast or loud; I trip over my tongue or bounce around in my mouth. I am also, as predicted, utterly unable to correctly pronounce the 'uvular R' in French. Admittedly I don't speak French as much as I used to (say, when I was in France), but I do put on some ridiculous accents in class sometimes. Not sure how to address that - perhaps I will trill my R's in French so people will just think I have a Spanish accent. I also cannot get the deep resonant "p-khhhoooowww!" that one employs when one represents explosions or cannon fire. Zain and I were playing with some pirate action figures and my guy fired his pistol and all I could manage was an airy "poh!" Zain yelled "ha! misfire!" and he proceeded to slash me from brain ter brisket, avast thar. Yardarmed in such manner, later I suffered a further humiliation at bedtime when trying to replicate the snort of a pig and coming up with nothing at all. My dear friend Dr. Mauk, a professor of Linguistics from Pitt, tells me that the uvular R is physiologically the same thing as the explody-noise and the oink, so it makes sense [Fig. 2 and 3].

Fig. 3. Not a douchebag
I'm willing to trade all that, no problem, for the extra twenty years of stroke-free life I've been promised, and the ability to sleep and even to dream again (been having doozies, after two decades of no dreams). Nor am I trying to compare myself with many of my colleagues in scholarship at the Society for Disability Studies, who every day have to deal with a lot more than suddenly not being able to oink. It's just a small reminder of Solomon's law, gam zeh ya'avor; this, too, shall pass. Our health, our voices, our able-ness - easy come, easy go. Carpe diem, y'all. Peace!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Michael!

    Let me just add that the difference between the Oink and the French R is that you're sucking in during the Oink noise. But you've got it right that the interaction of the uvula and the tongue body is the same.

    And while I'm here posting. Congrats again on your sleepfulness!