Let’s ar­range a play ac­tiv­ity sit­u­a­tion – yes, it’s play­time in For­tune-speak

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION - with David Medcalf med­der­s­me­[email protected]

‘MED­DERS, take that frown off your brow.’

‘But I am think­ing, dear­est petal.’ ‘Think­ing should be a plea­sure, not the cause of

‘Oh, sweet­est, if only it was that simple.’ ‘What’s the prob­lem this time? Let me guess. You have ev­i­dence sug­gest­ing that Ron­aldo is a bet­ter foot­baller than Messi?’ ‘Not pos­si­ble. No, not that.’

‘You have been read­ing that de­tec­tive novel ‘Mur­der in the Mess’ only to find it was miss­ing the last five pages?’

‘No, ev­ery­thing was present and cor­rect. The bu­gler did it.’ ‘You have found a fer­tiliser guar­an­teed to make parsnips grow as big as foot­balls but it costs €100 per gram.’

‘Wow! Is there such a thing? I don’t care what the price is. Pawn the chil­dren. Flog The Jalopy. Put The Pooch out to stud.’ ‘I give up. What ex­actly is it that has your fore­head so fur­rowed?’ ‘I am try­ing, ma cherie, to work out whether Joanna For­tune is a men­ace to all I hold to be cor­rect or is she a mys­tic to be fol­lowed as a lat­ter-day mes­siah.’

‘Who on earth is Joanna For­tune?’

Who in­deed? I chanced to hear Joanna For­tune the other day on the car ra­dio. She was in­tro­duced by New­stalk af­ter­noon show host Sean Mon­crieff as a par­ent­ing ex­pert and child psy­chol­o­gist, an­swer­ing parent’s queries on the par­ent­ing slot.

You know the sort of thing: Our baby sings note per­fect op­er­atic arias – should we put his name down for La Scala now or wait un­til his third birth­day? Our teenager will not let us into her room – should we ig­nore this or send for Ren­tokil and the bomb squad?

Joanna re­views all is­sues with com­mend­able lack of drama. Your son is not the first tod­dler who wants to as­sas­si­nate his grand­mother with a hatchet. Don’t be flus­tered by the no­tion that your daugh­ter in fifth class wants to go on a date with a 44 year old man she en­coun­tered on the in­ter­net. And then she comes up with prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions likely to be of gen­uine as­sis­tance.

It is not her ad­vice, how­ever, which has me frown­ing but the lan­guage in which she couches her replies. Joanna For­tune com­mu­ni­cates in a way which takes English into a new and slightly scary di­men­sion. Let us over­look Joanna’s ten­dency to use words such as ‘re­lat­able’, ‘in­di­vid­u­ate’, ‘es­trange­ment’, ‘nor­malise’, ‘in­ter­nal­is­ing’, ‘in­con­gru­ent’ and ‘self-reg­u­late’ or ‘co-reg­u­late’ which out of other mouths might come across as show­ing off. She passes them off as a sane part of nor­mal con­ver­sa­tion.

Concentrat­e in­stead on the phrase mak­ing. I nearly crashed The Jalopy, to­tally dis­tracted, when Joanna came out with the ex­pres­sion: ‘Sen­sory-wise it’s an over-stim­u­lat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.’ She was re­fer­ring to a trip to a swim­ming pool. In the in­ter­est of safety, I changed down a gear and plod­ded along through the coun­try­side trans­lat­ing this For­tune-speak into com­mon lingo: ‘Teenagers are dig­i­tal na­tives’ - teens use smart phones, a lot; ‘Lan­guage ac­qui­si­tion’- ba­bies start­ing to talk;

‘Act­ing out be­haviourall­y’- tod­dlers stomp­ing and scream­ing; ‘So­cial en­gage­ment’ - visit­ing some­one else’s home.

The For­tune def­i­ni­tion of religious faith may not go down too well with pro­fes­sional the­olo­gians – ‘mag­i­cal om­nipo­tent think­ing’. And it goes on. There are pod­casts full of For­tune-speak for those who care to lis­ten back to past episodes of the par­ent­ing slot: ‘Touch to learn pro­cess­ing’ - pat­ting a puppy; ‘Rude­ness and mean­ness is some­thing we re­ally want to em­power our kids to ad­dress and so­lu­tion fo­cus ap­proach them­selves’ – and so say all of us;

‘See if you can ar­range a play ac­tiv­ity sit­u­a­tion’ - in­vite a few of his pals around for foot­ball in the gar­den.

I need help to un­der­stand what Joanna For­tune means when she talks about ‘a psy­cho­log­i­cal process of men­tal­i­sa­tion that’s re­ally im­por­tant’. Like­wise, I am left floun­der­ing when she raises the ‘neuro-anatomic com­po­nent’. The won­der is that Joanna sounds per­fectly rea­son­able even when at her most ob­scure. And occasional­ly a ray of po­etic in­sight breaks through the psy­cho-bab­ble, as when she de­scribes a less than dili­gent Leav­ing Cert stu­dent: ‘She hasn’t creased the cover of a book.’ Per­fect.

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