Saturday, December 30, 2006

Overheard on a train

As I rode the MAX train home from the airport late last night, half-asleep, I became aware of the following conversation-in-progress:
She: It's a great restaurant. It's all locally grown, sustainable, no hormones, no pesticides.

He: That's great.

She: [Listing menu items, which I can't recall now] And they have vegetarian, but not vegan.

He: No vegan.

She: And they have a great foie gras.

He: [Frowning slightly] Oh, man. Foie gras is nasty. It's--

She: [Holding up her hand] Okay, first of all--

He: It's really cruel--

She: [Hand still up] Okay, first of all--

He: I mean, you force-feed a duck until its liver is-- [places hands together, then starts spreading them apart]

She: [Hand still up] Okay, first of all--

He: And they force a tube down the duck's throat and just-- [makes plunger-like motion with his hands]

She: [Hand still up] Okay, first of all, ducks don't have a gag reflex.

The train was at her stop and so, with that as her exit line--"Ducks don't have a gag reflex"--she left. He and I looked at each other and shook our heads, both slightly amazed that she believed this zoological factoid settled the matter decisively in her favor.

Since this was her "first of all" rejoinder, maybe she had more ammunition ready to use but ran out time before she could use them. But if she chose "Ducks don't have a gag reflex" to lead the rhetorical counteroffensive (suggesting that whatever she had to follow up with might not be so potent), it doesn't indicate much promise for her other counterarguments.

The more I thought about it, the more I was puzzled that there could be any conceivable argument that someone could imagine they'd won with the statement "Ducks don't have a gag reflex." From a purely Chomskian point of view, in fact, this might be the first time that sentence was ever uttered in the history of the language.

I suppose that, if Playboy ever merged with Field & Stream, there might someday be a letter that begins, "Dear Playboy Advisor, please settle a bet between my roommates and me. We were at the local park, when one of my roommates turns to me and says" . . .

And so on.


Jack Bog said...

Actually, the Ducks choke every year, in football.

the skirt said...

THAT is hilarious. in a sad kind of way. oh dear...

Dan said...

And we are all victims of our own education are we not?