Some readers may recall the advice given about seeking an exit whenever you hear the expression, “That reminds me of the time” and “If you think that is something, let me tell you what happened to me” especially from the lips of someone of a certain age. The “old geezers” association may resent what I am about to disclose but truth must be shared. The “truth” is that there is another peril awaiting and it is even more difficult to avoid and that is “buzz word.” Its mere usage opens the door for the listener to take control of the conversation, even to the lengths of another subject and the original speaker is powerless to prevent as the “buzz word” unleashes the new speaker, who now takes charge.
For an example, in last week’s letter, I mentioned “Atwater-Kent” and “Philco” radios which created a certain interest in a conversation I was having and the other person mentioned a radio brand, “Farnsworth.” Hearing that word gave me my chance to steer the conversation to a favorite subject, myself, as I detailed my search for the title of a motion picture I had seen some time ago, about an older gentleman, who upon hearing that his older brother with who he was estranged had suffered a stroke and prospects of recovery were not good. Based on a true story, he decided that it was time to make amends but his brother lived on an off-the-beaten-path farm and getting there would be difficult, as there was no public transportation and he had long ago given up his driver’s license because of poor eye sight. A lot of thought as to what would be the solution, the answer came as he gazed into his front yard. The lawn tractor. This film told the story of his journey of the miles he took along the back roads that were little used since the introduction of the interstates and his many experiences of the gentle helpful people he met on his journey.
Now, about this time the one time speaker who you have transformed to a listener by his usage of a “buzz word’ is ready for the clue that got him where he is and that is the movie was called “The Straight Story” and starred Richard Farnsworth. See how easy that was?
Just for practice, another example. The conversation has drifted to a discussion of the summer and back yard cookouts, especially grills. The buzz word is “grills” and away you go.
A co-worker was making his way towards the parking lot behind the US Capitol, as he headed home. Glancing towards a pile of scrap by the loading dock, he saw several iron bars that although they had stands at their base, could be fashioned into some heavy duty grill grates. Heavy as they were, he managed to get them into his car and home. Later as so often happens, the project was delayed and the metal poles were put to one side but then he noticed that if the poles were stood upright, they on closer inspection were actually not unlike stanchions you might see around an exhibit. Time passed and some time later, he was talking with Senator Stennis (MS) and the subject came up that the his state was constructing an exhibit at the University of Mississippi to which my friend, always eager to ingratiate himself, suggested that he had several stanchions that just might be appropriate in the exhibit area and arrangements were made for their transportation. Sometime later, the Head of the US Senate Historical Society was glancing at some photographs of the new Stennis exhibit and noticed something unusual, the stands surrounding one particular display looked a lot like stands that had been used for President Abraham Lincoln’s catafalque when he lay in state in the US Capitol Rotunda. They were the same.
One can get a lot of mileage out of a “buzz word” and you might add, if they want to see the stanchions that were used in the US Capitol Rotunda, whenever a well known personage was laid in state (prior to President Lincoln, of course) then the entire Nation, as well as West Virginians may say, “Thank Heaven for Mississippi.”
Jack D. Ballard