Stranger in a Strange Land
Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"Yes, Jubal. You—" Smith stopped, looked embarrassed. "I again have not words. I will read and read and read, until I find words. Then I will teach my brother" (12.214).
Sometimes we have ideas that we just can't put into words. In our minds, they are clear as day, but when we try to express them, our tongue mangles and destroys it all. That's where reading comes in. By emerging ourselves in the words, thoughts, and ideas of others, we can also find the words to express our own thoughts. It's the moment when you snap your fingers and say, "That's the word I'm looking for!" Mike's reading is his attempt for that moment.
[I]t was not possible to separate in the Martian tongue the human concepts: "religion," "philosophy," and "science"—and, since Mike thought in Martian, it was not possible for him to tell them apart. (14.104)
People use words like labels on boxes that need to be categorized and stored. People label themselves, the world around them, and their ideas all the time: "I'm a scientist," "That's an arachnid, not an insect," and "Michael Bay films are schlock." Since Mike was born and raised a Martian, it's like the contents of every box were dumped out, reorganized, and then relabeled before being put away.
"You need to think in Martian to grok the word 'grok.'" (21.62)
Okay, so you need to think in Martian to grok the word grok, but one can't grok how to think in Martian until they understand the word grok—it is, after all, the central tenet of Martian thought. (Still with us?) So, how do the others learn Martian later in the book? Ah, the conundrums of language and thought.