For those of your who didn’t see it, during the German Grand Prix yesterday, Ferrari were heard to give a coded message “Fernando is faster than you” to let his team mate know to let him pass. Watch the video here courtesy of BBC news.
This made me think about the idea of a “coded message” and how we can define it. Language is a tricky game, very rarely is the message purely provided by the words we say. Try this exercise to see for yourself:
Choose any simple phrase and try
- varying you tone,
- your pace of speech,
- your body language
- your facial expression
- your intonation
- use different hand movements,
- alter where you place your eyes
- and the amount of eye contact you make.
How many different meanings were you able to create?
The short sentence “Fernando is faster than you” could be a taunt, a statement of fact, or indeed a coded message. And within that coded message could it be “slow down and let him pass” or equally “speed up, he’s on your tail”? Of course given the context that they are team mates, and Felipe Massa’s move to let him pass following the message we can understand what was meant by the simple phrase. This suggests that a sentence in itself is meaningless without context.
When we start to delve into the complexity of language, it’s really no wonder that there are misunderstandings. Try the exercise above again and ask someone else to explain the meaning of your sentence with each change in delivery, do they understand the same meaning as you?
Let us know how you get on!