The Style of Speech

Remember that phase, oh it must have been more than a few years ago? When every statement, fact or observation? Ended in a question? It was so amazing? Because even if you were sitting in a seminar? Bombarded with facts? That were supposed to make you smarter? But you weren’t really sure? Because every statement was a question?

While I’m not sure of the rationale, I know speaking styles are whimsical and capricious. What’s so funny about these language phases is how quickly they seem to catch on. The Era of The Questions caught on like mad! An important part of that era was that the listeners did a lot of affirming and nodding when facts were posed in question form. You just couldn’t help it! Wait, no, You just coudn’t help it? (Now you’re supposed to nod.)

It seemed like the phase was at its peak when I was in nursing school therefore I was an Affirming Listener in the of The Era of The Questions. It would have been easier to be a philosophy major– you know, the whole Question Everything? Nursing is based on a good deal of hard science. Facts parading around as questions can be confusing. Plus I felt like a bobble-head by my senior year.

Here’s an example of my Critical Care clinical nursing instructor presenting our group the important skills in responding to, oh let’s say Cardiac Arrest:
“Okay, so if your patient is turning grey? and he’s passing out? and he doesn’t have a pulse? you should call a code? and start chest compressions?”

Image of the Questioning Face, also known as my Critical Care instructor


Okay! Are you telling me to do this or are you asking me about it? It might be really important to that patient lying there without a pulse.

I have a confession: as the Era of The Questions was fading out, it was my secret desire to usher in the Era of The Vow of Silence, Alas, it never took. My darling husband would just tell you that was because I’m really not as quiet as I think I am but I think it’s because I missed an opportunity. I didn’t march on the overpass while wearing a sandwich board sign stating “Welcome to The Era of the Vow of Silence!“.

We’ve been in the new phase for a while now and I have a few names for this epoch but none have really captured its essence. Words like Underwhelmed and Perpetually Bored come to mind but even those sound too lively. Maybe we can try The Dreary Era. Write me a better idea for this if you don’t like it.

The Dreary Era is characterized not only by speech but by an attitude that life on this planet is barely worth the effort of attaining an upright position. It is marked by lacklustre, monotone speeches that normally require exclamations and changes in voice pitch to make it listenable! If it sprung from the Grunge phase, it surpassed Grunge in its in bleak hopelessness. This style makes Grunge seem festive.

Here’s part of a conversation I’d like to share. In your mind, make sure you hear a voice that is just so devoid of life that every single word drops dead in a metal bucket:

“So” (oh yeah, every conversation starts with “So”. It’s as if you’ve been talking to this person for hours–don’t worry after a few sentences, you’ll feel like you’ve been talking to that person for hours)

“So-I-was-taking-the-train-into-work-when-this-guy-got-on-in-Salem-with-a-bloody-axe-and-started-hacking-the-heads-off-the-people-sitting-near-the-door… (oh yeah, sentences don’t end, there’s just long pauses)…it-was-kind-of-a-drag…I-was-kind-of-late-for-accepting-my-Nobel-Prize…plus-it-was-kind-of-gross-with-all-the-blood-and-heads-rolling-around…”

Imagine this statement reaching your ears as if you’re listening to government issued directions on how to form a straight line. It doesn’t really matter what is actually said, your ear organs have died long before the first pause! You want to smash yourself on the head with a hammer because at least it gives you something to feel!!! All right, I know I’m being dramatic. Evidently this era brings out the drama in those of us who can’t embrace it.

Oh my God! Are you still talking?

How do we remedy this? Plan field trip to an Irish Pub where fascinating tales are almost sung? Funnel all The Dreary-ites into a giant stadium for a weekend retreat with Up With People!? Issue a universal ring-tone of Susan Boyle singing that song from Les Miserables?

Put a little life in your life!


There’s got to be some way to inject a bit of passion and animation into the speech style that sucks your will to live. I tell you what, if you come up with a really good one, I will put it on the sandwich board and march around on the overpass. I promise! I promise? …so…I-promise…

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About EF Sweetman

bees, baseball, beverly, ma, culture, manners, society, writing
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5 Responses to The Style of Speech

  1. Henry Allen says:

    I thought it was just in the midwest? And it drove me nuts? So I moved East? You know?

  2. sweetman says:

    Oh I know? But it was everywhere? Like a bad rash?

  3. redriverpak says:

    I hate the folks that add in the word “like” every few words or so….

    “Like I was at the movie and like this dude like came up to me and like he said like….”

    You get the idea. I like so want to kill those people!

  4. It’s like watching the dude from like The Big Lebowski all over again man….

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