It's funny how language, an instrument designed to bring us closer together, can sometimes do the opposite instead. For instance, today in the supermarket I overheard a conversation that made me feel profoundly alone.
The conversation was between two women I didn't know. They greeted each other but were both in a hurry. One said she'd give the other a bell, (already a chill feeling of isolation began to fold itself around me, as that particular turn of phrase struck my ears - especially as it was accompanied by the gesture that involves holding a hand up to your face to, supposedly, resemble a telephone receiver being picked up). Yes, said the other, lets grab a coffee, (not a coffee, a cup of coffee, I refrained from interrupting them to point out), when the kids are at pre-school. We can have a really good chinwag then.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh, euuuuuuuuuuuw.
She said, 'CHINWAG'!
Yet, so far as I could see, no-one else in the shop had so much as flinched in the face of this horrible occurrence. Furthermore, time had not stopped. Not even one thunderbolt had come crashing through the striplit ceiling to strike the speaker down either.
Which was when it was - not for the first time, of course, (but most of the time I'm in denial) - borne in on me that I'm all by myself in a world where those I thought were my fellows remain calm in the face of dreadful words like 'chinwag'. Not one other person was shuddering or writhing or terrifying small children by gurning with horror as the frightful word echoed round the shelves of dry-goods and pre-dinner snacks.
No-one understands me. No-one. I bet you don't either. I bet you're saying right at this moment, 'Oh Zed, aren't you getting a tad over-excited?'
To which I say, 'Tad'? Please, call the ambulance. Now I've really been pushed too far.'.