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Today's word on journalism

Monday, January 29, 2007

Words as weapons:

"When he had a pen in his hand it was like giving a kid a machine gun."

--Peter Hall, theater director, on "Angry Young Man" playwright John Osborne (1929-1994)

'Hey, how's it going?' Much better, if you adopt my plan

By Jake Williams

December 15, 2006 | Sit down kind sir, its time to have a chat. We aren't related, nor are we friends per se. We are but mere acquaintances. Other than possibly our respective first names, the only thing we know for sure is that we recognize one another when, like today, our paths cross.

Earlier this morning I was walking east on the sidewalk between the TSC and the Eccles Science Learning Center whereas you were walking west. You were in a hurry to catch the 8th East shuttle and I was late for my biology lecture. In hindsight, one of us should have seen the other coming and pretended not to notice, but that's not what happened is it?

"Hey Jake, how's it going?"

"OK. You?"

"I'm OK. What's new?"

"Not much. You?"

"Not much. Well, talk to you later."


As I walked away from our awkward encounter it occurred to me, as it has likely occurred to you, that we didn't say anything meaningful during our 15 second conversation. In fact, all we did was delay one another. I'm not sure how many times each day I have a similar encounter, but conservatively I'll say five. Is this really necessary?

I've come to call encounters like ours "the most common conversation in the English language," which is dismal considering each awkward exchange leads to no significant communication. It feels like it will never end. Doesn't it?

Well the buck stops here, kind sir. I will no longer stand idly by. We are in dire need of a way to break this cycle, and I have devised such a solution. The next time I have no intention of having a meaningful chat and we pass each others' left shoulders, I'm going to look you dead in the eye and say, "I know you."

This may surprise you. You may even break stride to figure out what just happened, but if you do you'll be alone on that TSC sidewalk. I'll be five seconds closer to learning about deoxyribonucleic acid.

After gathering yourself I'm sure you'll see the genius of my plan. "I know you" is precisely what we are trying to convey when we have our 15 second talk. I'm confident you'll come to appreciate this new method of acknowledgment, and each subsequent time I announce my knowing you, all I expect in response is a smile and "I know you too!"

Thank you for improving our camaraderie. I really appreciate your help in removing the most common conversation in the English language from our interactions. Someday soon we'll have a meaningful conversation, but not today. I'm running a little late.



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