When I was a kid, my Dad nicknamed me 'Mumbles' thanks to my habit of muttering things under my breath. Now that he's gone, I feel a little sad that there's no-one left to call me by that name.
Some nicknames have a limited shelf-life. You just grow out of them and what once seemed cool and clever, in time sounds crap and stupid.
When I was at school my little gang of mates called me 'JAM' (a play on my initials) or 'Baggot' (which applied equally to us all). And that was fine, while it lasted. But by the time we went our separate ways after the trials and tribulations of the O levels, they had reached their expiry date. Today, I cringe almost as much at those names as I do at the haircut I had at the time, and I'd be hard-pressed to even tell you what a Baggot is.
But with 'Mumbles', I have actually grown even further into the name as I've got older. Dad obviously knew me well.
What started off as the habit of chatting to myself has developed into a perverse sort of communication tool. Whilst I can still occasionally be caught rehearsing one of those conversations going on in my mind, I now consciously mumble as a way of making people think I know what I'm talking about when I don't.
The idea is that if you talk quickly, clearly and enthusiastically enough, and with the right air of authority or confidence, you can skim over the bits you don't know by half-swallowing the words.
You'd be surprised how effective it can be. It even works in a second language (especially in a second language?).
No matter how long I have been here and no matter how good my Greek gets, there are certain words that I never seem to be able to get my mouth around properly. So, when I know I'm going to have to say one of those dreaded words, I work up to it by building what I am going to say into the context of the conversation and then just mumble an approximation of it when the time comes. Ta-ta!
If I wave my hands around enough (someone once said all you have to do to shut me up is to handcuff me!), the meaning is understood and it doesn't occur to anyone to ask what on earth I am waffling on about.
So, the lesson of the day is: When in doubt, mumble!