"How are you?"
"Oh, fine - and you?"
"Yeah, not bad. Nice day today, isn't it?"
"Yes, it was a bit chilly this morning, but now the sun's come out..." [Continue until the lift arrives, or until the end of time.]
Small talk is usually not conveying much vital information, nor is it especially interesting. But beneath that comfort blanket of tedium lies a valuable social function. I became the bore at a party and made a load of people talk to me about it.
EXTRA STUFF TO CHAT ABOUT:
- Let's chat in real life! Come along to the first Allusionist live show, 4.30pm on 24 September at the London Podcast Festival at Kings Place. Tickets are here.
- On This American Life, Mystery Show's Starlee Kine campaigns to end small talk altogether.
- Animals do small talk too?
- Documentary maker Marc Isaacs spent a long time in a lift in a London tower block, having conversations with the residents for the duration of their journeys. The result is beautiful and melancholy.
- Apropos of 'criminal conversation': a brief history of women's divorce rights, and one famous criminal conversation case.
- There's a transcript of this episode at theallusionist.org/transcripts/smalltalk. Excuse the background noise in parts of the show; I was recording people in places where sociable talk tends to happen - pubs, parties, restaurants - which also tend to be loud.
THE SPONSORS WANT A WORD:
1. THE GREAT COURSES PLUS will let you renovate your mind for FREE - access any of their thousands of video lectures at thegreatcoursesplus.com/Allusion. You Allusionistes might particularly like The Secret Life of Words and Myths, Lies and Half-Truths of Language Usage.
2. POO-POURRI, the before-you-go bathroom spray, will dupe people into believing your excrement is as fragrant as a summer cocktail. For a 20% discount on your next order at poopourri.com, use the code word WORDS.
MAILCHIMP'S RANDOMLY SELECTED WORD FROM THE DICTIONARY:
This episode features, in order of appearance (and if you're in the market for good podcasts, try theirs):
- Fellow Radiotopian Benjamen Walker, of Benjamen Walker's Theory of Everything
- Isy Suttie, of new podcast Isy Suttie's The Things We Do For Love
- Eleanor McDowall, progenitor of Radio Atlas and the producer of BBC Radio 4's Short Cuts
- Converser extraordinaire Dave Pickering, of, amongst other podcasts, Getting Better Acquainted and the forthcoming Family Tree
- Allusionist team-member Devon Taylor, and Michael the barman (I don't know which New York City fleshpot they were chatting in)
- Matthew Crosby, of the comedy sketch team Pappy's and, accordingly, their podcasts Bangers and Mash and Flatshare Slamdown
- Matt Hill, producer of many shows including Spark London and The Media Podcast (and the election episodes of this show
- Amy Smith, plus Martin Austwick and Sam Pay of Song By Song podcast
- Avery Trufelman, producer of 99% Invisible
- Mae Mars, wife of 99% Invisible
Thanks also to: Louise Adams; Jen Adamthwaite; Penny Bell; Colin and Debs Eyers of the Turtle Bean cafe in Liss, Hampshire; Hannah Madsen; Roman Mars; and Tom Wilkinson.