With all the concern paid to the endangered written word – who’s producing it, who’s reading it and how will newspapers and books survive – we might want to pay more attention to preserving the spoken word.
That is, the talking part, when we’re face to face. Where chatter is not reduced to 140 characters on a tiny keyboard. And we can strive for eloquence, understanding and maybe throw in a few adjectives and adverbs.
When we’re talking, we don’t need any stinking tweets or text. We can use our big girl and big boy words. While old and new media duke it out, we could be having summer salons and front porch idea fests. Return to those days of communicating in full sentences.
And yet, I worry, having observed a sloppiness among people, even those who consider themselves articulate and well-spoken, to slip into “blah, blah, blah” speech. The alarming part is that it’s catching. Someone blah-blahs you and you blah-blah back.
For example, a friend reports she is no longer going out with a man who is smart, kind and likes to dance. “So, he called to say he couldn’t come to my birthday party, and blah, blah, blah. And you know, I can’t put up with that anymore.”
But what is the blah, blah? Maybe there’s a pattern of behavior with this person that I’m supposed to know and doesn’t need explaining, but how can she assume? She could be leaving out the best part of the story. Did she mean, instead of “blah, blah, blah,” to say, “Because orphans, as you know, hate birthday parties.” Or, “because he’s back with his ex.”
“Blah, blah, blah” seems to have replaced “yada, yada, yada.” You remember “yada, yada, yada.” It was immortalized in a Seinfeld show in which George complains that his girlfriend stops short of saying what she really means and glosses it over with “yada, yada, yada.” And Jerry Seinfeld says perhaps she is just being succinct in the manner of USA Today.
Of course, that was at a time when USA Today was considered shorthand journalism but which is “War and Peace” compared to blog briefings. Online communication is terse and code-like. Twitter seems like passing a note in junior high and having the teacher read it in front of everyone.
But offline we can talk on into the night.
Social media is not the same as social discourse which is full and rich in a “My Dinner with Andre” kind of way.
Maybe people use “blah, blah” because they’re feeling time-sensitive and rushing to tell the story. Like saying “and so on” or “same old, same old” or “etcetera, etcetera,” assuming that the other person can fill in the details. But it takes no more time to use real words.
Besides when someone says, “Blah, blah” I think of what the dog hears when you look into his face and say, “I mean it, no more barking.”
Consider how many delicious and useful words are rejected every minute just to fit a tweet or a blog or a Blackberry that we could save and use in our next conversation. When the napkins are balled up and the glasses pushed back and talk drifts down the table like music, punctuated by laughter and maybe debate and then everyone is taking turns recalling childhood memories of swimming in their favorite green lake.
And it’s all brilliant, not blah-blah, these words that are attached to thoughts, not thumbs.