I recently read an interesting article about a super computer nicknamed Watson, which was developed by IBM. You may have heard about it, from its participation on the television show Jeopardy, in which it easily defeated two human participants in a battle of knowledge. I learned that Watson is the next important step in the development of artificial intelligence, and has the ability to apply advanced natural language processing, information retrieval, knowledge representation, and automated reasoning technologies to the field of open domain question answering. It can also, quickly execute hundreds of proven language analysis algorithms simultaneously. In simple terms, it means that theoretically, Watson should be able to answer any question, no matter how difficult.
Rumor has it, Watson was given an extremely difficult challenge that has confused, perplexed, and eluded mankind for thousands of years. He was asked to process all available data, in order to determine, understand, and translate what men have come to call, “women’s secret language.” This means of communication, is not based on a definitive verbiage, but on a complex system of body manipulations, facial expression, hand movements, and specific vocalizations. On the surface, this secret language may seem nonsensical to men, but it is a unique means for women to communicate with each other; free from the prying ears of men. I bring this up, for two reasons. The first, is that when given the task of translating women’s secret language, into understandable words, Watson’s answer was, “What? Are you messing with me? That’s impossible! Does not compute….. does not compute.” The second reason is that men also have their own secret language. Well, at least we think it’s secret. I have a feeling that most women, including my wife, figured it out a long time ago.
This past week, I was walking my dog, Chase, through the development where I live. The temperature was in the low sixties, a cold, relentless rain had us both soaked to the skin, and a blustery wind had turned my now useless umbrella inside out. As we plodded miserably along, I noticed an approaching car as it slowed down. As he passed, the man who was driving looked at me, gave a slight nod of his head, and extended the four fingers of the hand that was gripping the steering wheel upward. This simple gesture by a complete stranger, got me thinking about how us men, have our own sophisticated, complex, and totally secret, nonverbal language. Only another man would know that the gesture by the gentleman in the car meant, “I feel your pain, man. I just finished walking my wife’s two Pomeranians. They’re six inches tall, do nothing but yap and poop, and were wearing orange sweaters with matching booties.”
At the beginning of this post, I show a picture of a man beneath the calm, blue waters of the ocean, wearing scuba gear. To a woman, he seems to be giving the universally known symbol for “every thing’s okay,” among those who partake of the dangerous hobby of venturing underwater, with only a portable oxygen tank to ensure a safe return to the surface. A woman, seeing the gesture, would smile, give a thumbs-up sign, turn, and leisurely continue her exploration of the underwater wonderland. However, another man diving nearby, would immediately rush over to assist him, by sharing his own air supply, and gently guiding him to the safety of the surface above. Only a man, would instantly recognize that the thumb and index finger formed into a circle, and the other three fingers pointed upward means, “Please help me. I have zero air left in my tank. The bubbles you see, are what’s left of the last remaining air molecules, escaping from my failing lungs. I have no idea what went wrong. My wife told me she would personally ensure, I had a full air tank, and a properly operating regulator, while I completed some paperwork and signed some forms. Wait a minute. I think those forms I signed, were for life insurance coverage!”
I often use the secret man language, but I think over the past few years, my wife’s starting to pick up on some of the gestures, subtle head movements, and expressions. She doesn’t say anything, but I’m sure she understands, when she asks if I’m still hungry, that leaning back, and placing both hands on my distended stomach after a huge and filling meal, isn’t a sign that I’m full. It really means, “Hmmm…. I think I still have another two or three inches of expansion here. There might just be enough room for more dessert.” She may have even figured out the well-known peace signal, we’ve all used at one time or another, has a different meaning for men. In a setting such as a club or bar, I use it for male bartenders. It actually means, “I’ll have two beers, please. Give me one now, and sneak me the other one as my wife is heading for the lady’s room.”
I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but men and women, often use the exact same gestures, but they have completely different meanings. One example, is the head nod. To a woman, this is a sign that she is intently listening, and wants you to continue what you were saying. To a man it means, “Blah, blah, blah….. whatever. I hope this discourse is going to end soon. I was supposed to be at the sports bar five minutes ago, to watch the big game. Have any of you seen a woman slightly tilt her head to one side. This is usually a sign of friendliness, and a desire to foster rapport. When two men are conversing, and one of them quickly tilts his head, and also shifts both eyes in the same direction, it means, “Stop talking about that hot new waitress; your significant other is standing right behind you!”
I better finish up this latest installment of my simple observations of everyday life. It’s almost bedtime, and I have a big night ahead of me. My wife asked me how I was doing, before she made her way upstairs to bed. I gave a thumb’s up sign, but she probably didn’t notice that my four fingers weren’t held tightly against my palm, but were sticking straight out at a ninety-degree angle, and were slightly parted. This unique gesture, wasn’t meant for my wife, but rather for my two friends, Bill and Steve crouched out on the back deck. In men’s secret language it means, “This is going to be great. She’ll be sleeping in five minutes, and we have to at least four in the morning before she wakes up. I hope you brought beer, poker chips, and plenty of money.”