Talking to people who don't hear you (was DWJ quizzes)

Sally Odgers sodgers at
Sun Dec 12 10:51:00 EST 2004


I know both situations too well.

Someone: Have some sauce on your chips.
Me: I don't like sauce on chips.
Them: Sauce MAKES chips.
Me: I don't like sauce on chips.

i.e. I make a statement of personal preference/fact, which is countered by a general statement.

You gotta watch the news.
I dislike watching news.
But you gotta know what's going on in the world.
Um. Why?

Or even-

Have a brandy. That'll fix your cold.
I don't have a cold. I have hay fever.
Brandy's the thing for colds. Have some.


  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Margaret Ball 
  To: dwj at 
  Sent: Monday, December 13, 2004 2:37 AM
  Subject: Talking to people who don't hear you (was DWJ quizzes)

I grew up in a 
very awkward home life and discovered that if you said quite clearly, 
for instance, that you'd missed school because you'd been up all night 
having your father committed, nobody really paid any attention.
  Ouch! Probably because they didn't want to hear it and didn't want to deal with it? Or was it simply that such a situation wasn't part of their mental world and they couldn't hear it? 

  I run into the second class of situation all the time, but (knocking on wood) so far only with cultural trivia, so far. As in:

  Them: Did you see that really great episode of <pick show>?"
  Me: "No, I'm not in the habit of watching TV."
  Them: "Yeah, yeah, I know a lot of it's trash, but this is such a great show, everybody watches it."
  Me: "It probably is."
  Them: "So anyway, didn't you love the part where....."

  Or at the fabric store.

  Clerk: "What are you going to do with those, they don't go together?" <staring at array of red, magenta and fuchsia rayon threads>
  Me: "I'm going to machine-embroider ALL OF THEM on a quilt made up of lots of shades of red silk."
  Clerk: "Oh, so that's what the red is for. What about the others?"

  Exchanges like this make me wonder if I'm really a ghost living in somebody else's nearly-parallel universe....except <obdwj> I don't seem to have been issued any of Christopher Chant's magical powers along with the world-traveling.

  So I guess I will retreat to my study and read the 160-page PDF manual for putting a Paypal shopping cart on your site, which (the manual that is) definitely came out of somebody else's world, probably a world of sadistic practical jokers. Don't you think there ought to be some kind of Retribution for people who tell you their software is trivially easy to use and then make you download a 160 page manual, with links to five or six other manuals where they actually explain the details? Something slow, with boiling oil in it?

Margaret Ball

Mathematicians are like Frenchmen; whatever you say to them they translate into their own language and forthwith it is something entirely different.

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