ken writes: When I whinge, it is, as I would like to put it, the thought that counts. I mean, I don’t just whinge for the sake of it. It matters what I am whinging about. The content of the whinging, the complaint, is part of the point. It is the whole point.

Or so I thought. Hugh whinges. For example, I have noticed that when he is put to bed, he cries for a bit, of course, but then he stops crying and vocalises. He babbles in a distinctly whinging tone of voice, as if to say, ‘nobody listens to what I want…’ But what can he be whinging about? What can his complaint be? What is left of ‘nobody listens to what I want…’ if you subtract ‘nobody’ and ‘listens’ and ‘to’ etc.?

The only explanation that seems right to me is that it isn’t the thought that counts, but that whinging vocalising is a bodily expression of complaint just as crying is a bodily expression of discomfort and unhappiness. This is very strange.


2 thoughts on “Whinging

  1. Katimum

    Given that it is, for articulate human beings, difficult to imagine thought without words, how can we say that, without words, he does not have the thought? One thing I learnt the hard way from Baby Dot (or Dodo as she was then) was that she could understand more of what was said around her than she could communicate back – or in the words of me old Mum, little pitchers have big ears.
    On going to bed ….. I could imagine the thought is that a) I want to be with Mummy and Daddy and know what is going on and not miss out….but b) I am sleepy and body tells me I need to shut down. He is therefore caught in that familiar dilemma of all mortals that we want more than one unreconcilable object and are NOT HAPPY. And since he is learning and observing he knows that when Mummy and Daddy are not entirely happy with life a certain complaining tone enters their babbling …… Taxation is too high and why should we have to pay to bring a car into the country, especially at an inflated valuation….why can’t my students get their work in on time and in a legible form…..why doesn’t the local Environmental shop stock nappies in smaller quantities… etc. He probably has’t quite grasped that Mummy and Daddy can’t make him feel untired without the sleep process, just as the Cats haven’t grasped we can’t turn off the rain or fix it so they can be both sides of door at once without the draught between.

  2. ken

    I grant the bare possibility of inarticulate thought, just as I would grant the possibility of inconceivable objects – we can’t conceive of them but there might be such things – but I can only conceive of a baby’s thought by analogy with thoughts like my own, which I think are more than merely clothed in language. How can Hugh have the thoughts you describe before the words that define them? I have no good argument, but I prefer to see babbling as a bodily expression of complaint, and therefore general and undifferentiated, with causes rather than reasons for it, rather than as the articulation of preverbal thought, just because preverbal thought seems too unlike the usual kind of thought.

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