Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Favorite Stories Often Begin With "Well"

I saw a television commercial recently that asked the question: "Do you know what game your child played in recess today?" The answer is that I generally do (that is, on the days when recess actually exists. This time-honored free-for-all is slowly but surely being phased out of elementary school. Another "No Child Left Behind" victory!)

As a middle schooler Lincoln doesn't tell me about his day as frequently or descriptively as his sister, but she more than makes up for the shortfall. I am able to find out all sorts of incidents, dramas, rumors, conjecture and flat-out balderdash (I love that word) simply by asking her to tell me about her day. One of my favorite games last year was what I came to call "Ellison Says". Any sentence that began with those words caused me to immediately sit up and listen keenly because absolutely anything could follow. "Ellison says his driveway is a mile long", "Ellison says one species of turtle can live a thousand years"; "Ellison says he was born without tonsils"; "Ellison says Pluto is gone". Casey and Ellison are now in different 4th grade classes and life is poorer for it.

I've found that a similar treat follows any time Casey answers a question by starting with the word "Well". "Well" is a clear indicator that a thoroughly entertaining tale is ahead, chock-a-block (another favorite word!) with a fascinating mix of vagary, circular logic, accidental profundity and more than a few extraneous or omitted key points. Sometimes all she has to say is that first word and I start laughing, much to her annoyance.

Things have now gotten to the point that I typically notice when almost anyone starts an explanation with the word "Well". Politicians do it all the time, and it's an immediate "tell" that they are either being defensive or slinging total bullshit.

As the old pun goes, "well" is a deep subject.

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