The only problem with this theory is that I often think it is also true about adults: they might as well be speaking in tongues for all the sense they make to each other. There seems to be an assumption in current affairs TV and radio that talk and discussion are a public good in themselves, but I wonder how much good the debate about Europe, the economy, the public and private sector and so on actually does, given that it simply seems to entrench people even further in their own versions of reality. Any author will be familiar with this feeling: people just get the wrong end of the stick about what you have written, or maybe you have failed to make it clear - but the tone and voice underlying your words (and sometimes even, although this is usually the least important thing, the content) has simply bounced off them as if you were two surly magnets repelling each other. 'A joke isn’t a joke if it has to be explained, let alone justified,' Christopher Hitchens wrote in Vanity Fair in 1994, 'and the same goes for many sorts of allusion, nuance, and affect – the invisible bits of writing and conversation that actually make it possible.' More often, what you have written is simply ignored: the writer Gilbert Adair, who died last week, liked to refer to himself as 'unread Adair'.
Still we remain what David Attenborough, in the last episode of Life on Earth, called the 'compulsive communicators'. It's just something we do and can't help doing, and sometimes our misunderstandings and misreadings of each other can be creative, funny and life-enhancing. So thanks to everyone who came to the Conversation Dinner for reminding me that, however hard it is, we shouldn't give up on trying to converse with other.
Mundane quote for the day: Habit, n. A shackle for the free. - Ambrose Bierce