Points on Pointing

Spring 2011 #5

I feel confident that St Matthew had my Pointing Gadget in mind when he spake thus:

Let your ‘Yes’ be Yes, and your ‘No’ be No;
anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

The “anything” he mentioned, the emanation of Sheol, was without a doubt the tiny word “or”.  How could an innocuous grammatical conjunction have its genesis in Hell? Let me demonstrate…

“Shall I boil the kettle?” asks my Favourite Wife.
‘Beep’ I reply (One for Yes, Two for No).  
“Anything to eat”? she thoughtfully adds.
‘Beep Beep’
“Tea or Coffee?” (OR!)
‘Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep! Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep! Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!’ 

That tiny word ‘OR’, the damnable conjunction, has troubled many a simple exchange in Paradise!  It takes a degree of skill and discipline on the part of the questioner to phrase everything in a strictly Yes/No format.  It’s slow going, and requires a calm objectivity sometimes elusive in domestic dealings; but as long as ‘OR’ is avoided, almost anything can be conveyed.

The Pointing Gadget has become an intrinsic part of our new language.  It cuts through the confusion of impromptu hand signals that inevitably arises in non-verbal communication.  It is much simpler to use a hand-held pointer to pinpoint a specific item than it is to wave in a general direction. The built in buzzer is useful for attracting attention, and for communicating further about an item or topic of discussion. 

The pointer is especially valuable when dressing, when asking for food or drink, or when something is just out of reach. The Pointing Gadget is invaluable in the car where typing onto a computer screen is probably not the wisest notion, and background noise prohibits any whispering.  It is also very effective in a manual chair when lip-reading is not an available option. No eye contact is required with the person pushing, which is ideal, and it works extremely well to indicate where I would like to be pushed:  Left here, now right, and so on. 

With a bit of practice a certain nuance develops, giving shades of meaning to each Beep. For example a single “Yes” beep can just as easily mean “Thank you”.  Three Beeps means “What?”, or any other contextually appropriate question.  The act of reaching for the pointer says “I am about to ask for something”, smoothing the way to the request itself. Using the pointer to say “could I have such and such please” seems somehow more polite than other gestures, and infinitely more accurate.


‘Beep’ (attract some attention). 
“Oh, would you like a cup of tea dear?” says my Favourite Wife. 
Job’s right!

For the technically minded (hoping that a reader might want to make one for someone else in a non-verbal situation) the materials are a short block of 1” square pine, a telescopic blackboard pointer (about $10), a buzzer, spring loaded button and battery holder (under $8 from an electronics shop), a wrist-strap and a hook.  I have also added similar ‘Beepers’ to a couple of chairs.


And the Pointing Gadget does a fair job as a child-tickler as well, if you happen to have a Little One around!


10 Responses to “Points on Pointing”

  1. 1 sharon October 10, 2011 at 3:11 am

    My friend this is much simpler than the monastic sign language! Except of course the “noise” of a beep or buz would never do in silence. Did you really design this by yourself?? It is amazing. Did you put it together with your own hands, or did you have someone make it for you? Would you be willing to make one for others? Or have someone else make a few, to save the energy in your hands and arms. I am impressed with this!

    I just downloaded “accessive-cha”t on my Ipad….it is very simple, will record your own most used phrases (not your voice but synthasized voice)and keep them in memory…does word prediction. I also just heard that there is now an apt you can get from Apple that makes a head mouse usable with Ipad.

    But simplicity sometimes is best!

  2. 2 Sandy Baker Hobbs October 10, 2011 at 8:32 am

    You should patten these, Rod! What a wonderful idea. I love the pointer. I should get one for me and Shane….we point in the general direction of something and have no idea what is being pointed at! And then the discussions begins…

  3. 3 Trish Tiffen October 10, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Yes I have to agree the’or’ word can cause confusion and unnecessary talk. Over the years I have been guilty of using it far to often. I can remember asking the children if they would like say sausages, eggs or bacan or maybe tomatoes,or, or, Barry’s response would be ‘just dish it up this is not a resturant, don’t give them so many choices’. Also I find using the ‘or’ word can sometimes confuse older people when they are already finding it difficult in making their decision.

  4. 4 roderickmallen October 12, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Yep, all my own work Sharon. I don’t think I’m heading for mass production, but I would make one for you!

  5. 5 roderickmallen October 12, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    I’m not sure that it would work for an able-bod family Sandy, too complex. It relies on a certain rapore that only grows under real pressure! (But I guess you can try!….)

  6. 6 roderickmallen October 12, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    You problem need one Trish! Maybe a pair?

  7. 7 sharon October 13, 2011 at 1:41 am

    Ok I’ll take you up on this deal! It is so simple that it really appeals to me. Just be sure not to tire yourself out too much….I have time before I will need this as the only sign of my arms going is in my hands,,,cramping and spacitity. So do it slow and no pushing yourself, ok?

  8. 8 Michael Wenham October 13, 2011 at 2:30 am

    Oh yes! Tell me about it. I’ve never managed to persuade Jane not to offer me alternatives. “Would you like tea… or a cold drink, dear?” she’s JUST said to me! I nod usually. But that’s no answer. Rats!

  9. 9 roderickmallen October 22, 2011 at 10:52 am

    I’ve made a sort of start already Sharon, and I’ll keep you posted….

  10. 10 roderickmallen October 22, 2011 at 10:53 am

    It requires all the Patience of the Just Michael; then some!

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