Today, I am forty... (pause for gnashing of teeth). A delightful vignette in the office this morning confirms just how out of touch I am. In a brief office conversation about YouTube, I mentioned the current Internet meme of mash-ups involving Kanye West.
I had read in the traditional print media about West interrupting the recent MTV event and then noticed references to it becoming a meme (like Star Wars Kid, Rick Astley and many others before) in some of my RSS feeds this morning.
Unfortunately, I pronounced his name as Kayne as is "Cane" not Kanye as in "Cahn-yay". This was enough to send one of my young colleagues into red faced paroxysms of delight at just how out of touch I am.
The thing is, I have never knowingly heard Mr. West's name spoken out loud. I have simply read it. My mind decided not to recognise the reversal of the "Y" and the "N" in his name in favour of a more plausible (in my head at least) mispelling of Abel's brother's name.
I could complain at this stage that life would be a whole lot easier if people learned to spell and stopped making up words. But it has been ever thus and it is one of the functions of language to separate the wheat from the chaffe, the "in" from the "out" and the young from the old. Many pronunciations of English names and places (Featherstonehaugh: pronounced Fanshaw; Cholmondeley: pronounced Chumly except where it is pronounced Cholmondeley; Loughborough pronounced Luffbra) are deliberate traps for the unwary to highlight the fact that you are either foreign, uneducated or worse "middle class"; depending on your prejudice.
Anyway Kanye's name did its job. It identified me as one of the uninitiated.
This made me think about my learning. Much of my receptive processes are written. I read more than I watch or listen. But when trying out new ideas I will discuss them or write about them as in this blog. This practice, to become useful, must feel safe and indeed the creation of a safe learning environment is one of the cornerstones of a good teacher's art.
Fortunately, I have developed a fairly thick skin in my four decades on this earth and I am happy to be laughed at occasionally. I will not forget Mr West's name in a hurry nor yet will the shame of my mistake prevent me from talking or wrtiting about things that I don't entirely understand.
But it does offer me an insight into why this might be difficult for other people. For people who are still sensitive to the opinions of others the internet and the world of informal learning might resemble less a quasi-infinite candy sore of ideas and opportunity and more a place of almost infinite opportunities for self-embarassment