What Kind of Conversation Was That?

You can tell how important something is by the number of words used to describe it. For example, according to anthropologist Franz Boaz, the Eskimo language has 50 words for “snow.” For most of us in the United States, snow is simply snow. But since so much of an Eskimo’s life centers on snow they have many words to identify it in various ways.

I believe the same is true of conversation in our culture. The variety of words for having a conversation stresses its importance in most of what we do each day.

For example, banter involves having a few quick, often witty comments with your listener, as does repartee. The quip might be a single comment in a conversation. Two people talking equally is a dialogue, while a heart-to-heart talk with someone close to you is a tête-à-tête. A slang term for a chat is a confab, short for confabulation.

When you have a conversation with someone who talks a lot but the content is superficial and disorganized, you might say this person prattles. Closely connected to that is to footle, which also means to talk foolishly. The raconteur is the person who tells stories in an amusing way.

One could mention many more examples. But this series of samples demonstrates that when you talk to someone you are doing much more than stringing words together to make a point.

What other examples would you add to this list?


Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at steveboyd111@gmail.com.

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