Small talk and gossip

The. Be. To. Of. And. A. In. That. Have. I.

No, I haven’t lost my mind. And my laptop is working fine. These are the ten most used words in the English language. These words are the essential stitches that bind the most common language in the world together.

But what about the object of such words? What are the most common things that we talk of and about?

Using my small brain, I can make a guess. The weather, our colleagues behaviour, our families antics, our friends escapades, some complaining and moaning, some expressions of joy and happiness, and a healthy of dose of wit and sarcasm. In short, small talk and gossip.

Which conjures a scenario in my mind. If small talk and gossip was impossible—perhaps the universe responds to it with lightning storms and earthquakes, or some malfunction of evolution makes us incapable of it—what would the world be like? To say it would be different would be an understatement.

Consider what Douglas Adams discovered about the human species in A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

“One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about humans was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very very obvious, as in It’s a nice day, or You’re very tall, or Oh dear you seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you alright? At first Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behaviour. If human beings don’t keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months’ consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favour of a new one. If they don’t keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.”

If small talk and gossip were abolished from our speech, most people wouldn’t have much to say. The world would be remarkably quiet.