Introducing Sarah Doar, Legal Consultant
September 25, 2018
Category: MRSC News and Updates
In preparing my first blog post as MRSC’s newest Legal Consultant, I struggled with the shortcomings of communication to express who I am.
“When it rains, it pours.” You would think that a proverb, as a form of communicating an idea, tends to only make sense if it describes an experience common to both the speaker and the listener. But is this truly so?
Did you know that, by volume, it rains more in Tallahassee, Florida (my home state) than it does in Seattle? According to the NOAA 1981-2010 Climate Normals dataset, Seattle annually experiences about 37.7 inches of rain over 149 days. Tallahassee typically sees about 59.2 inches of rain a year — but only over 111 days. If my middle school algebra is correct, while it does not rain as often in Tallahassee, when it does rain it is more than double the amount in Seattle.
So, it is fair to say that when it rains in Tallahassee, it pours? The adjective “torrential” aptly describes about 20 minutes on a typical late-summer afternoon, but when it rains in Seattle, it doesn’t really “pour” (except for maybe the entire month of November). Do folks who grow up in Seattle not use this phrase to describe work or events that seem to pile up within a short period of time?
Or how about “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”? When is the last time someone gave you a horse and you resisted the urge to check its teeth to determine the age, health, and quality of said horse? And yet this phrase is used to caution against looking too closely or complaining about the quality of a gift — whether a physical gift or a serendipitous event. Just be grateful you received a gift at all.
But I am making assumptions — about perceived common urban experience, exposure to the same sayings, and similar lessons in gratitude.
Assumptions can cause our ideas to get lost in translation or translated wrong entirely. A colorful chart becomes useless when printed in greyscale. “Community service” can be selfless, voluntary action or a mandatory punishment. Sixty seconds of screen time of Chinese actors greeting each other is inexplicably subtitled in English as “It is good to see you again.”
The devil is in the details.
Language is this ever-changing, ever-evolving, fascinating, and fantastical ephemeral agreement or unspoken social contract. If you attempt to express an idea, to communicate and share your mind, I agree to attempt to hear, to understand, and accept your gift with gratitude. We will likely fail to achieve perfect communication — even if only because as an abstract thought passes through physical media it cannot help but be altered — but we will have made the effort. Through our awareness of the fallibility of our means perhaps we can eventually achieve our ends.
My “end” is to be of service to Washington local governments: To offer guidance when asked, to speak on, write about, and research issues that impact jurisdictions across the state, from large to small, resource-poor to resource-rich.
Just, please, don’t look too closely at my teeth.
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