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Thursday, May 18

Tactics of social discourse

- by Dave Barry

I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don't even invite me.

You too can win arguments. Simply follow these rules:

1. Drink Liquor

Suppose you are at a party and some hotshot intellectual is expounding on the economy of Peru, a subject you know nothing about. If you're drinking some health-fanatic drink like grapefruit juice, you will hang back, afraid to display your ignorance, while the hotshot enthralls your date. But if you drink several large shots of Jack Daniels, you will discover you have strong views about the Peruvian economy. You will be a wealth of information. You will argue forcefully, offering searing insights and possibly upsetting furniture. People will be impressed. Some may leave the room.

2. Make Things Up

Suppose, in the Peruvian economy argument, you are trying to prove Peruvians are underpaid, a position you base solely on the fact that you are underpaid, and you will be damned if you are going to let a bunch of Peruvians be better off. Don't say: "I think Peruvians are underpaid." Say: "The average Peruvian's salary in 1981 dollars adjusted for the revised tax base is $1,452.81 per annum, which is $836.07 below the mean gross poverty level."

Note: Always make up exact figures.

If an opponent asks you where you got your information, make that up, too. Say: "This information comes from Dr. Hovel T. Moon's study for the Buford Commission published May 9, 1982. Didn't you read it?" Say this in the same tone of voice you would use to say "You left your soiled underwear in my bath house."

Use meaningless but weighty-sounding words and phrases.

Memorise this list:
  • Let me put it this way
  • In terms of
  • Vis-a-vis
  • Per se
  • As it were
  • Qua
  • So to speak
  • Well, any-who
You should also memorise some Latin abbreviations such as "Q.E.D.," "e.g.," and "i.e." These are all short for "I speak Latin, and you do not."

How to use these words and phrases:

Suppose you want to say, "Peruvians would like to order appetizers more often, but they don't have enough money."

You never win arguments talking like that. But you will win if you say: "Let me put it this way. In terms of appetizers vis-a-vis Peruvians qua Peruvians, they would like to order them more often, so to speak, but they do not have enough money per se, as it were. Q.E.D."

Only a fool would challenge that statement.

3. Use Snappy and Irrelevant Comebacks

You need an arsenal of all-purpose irrelevent phrases to fire back at your opponents when they make valid points. The best are:
  • You are begging the question.
  • You are being defensive.
  • Don't compare apples and oranges.
  • What are your parameters?
This last one is especially valuable. Nobody, other than mathematicians, has the vaguest idea what "parameters" means.

How to use your comebacks:

You say "As Abraham Lincoln said in 1873 ..."
Your opponent says "But Lincoln died in 1865."
You say "You are begging the question."

or

You say "Liberians, like most Asians ..."
Your opponent says "But Liberia is in Africa."
You say "You are being defensive."

4. Compare Your Opponent to Adolf Hitler

This is your heavy artillery, for when your opponent is obviously right and you are spectacularly wrong. Bring Hitler up subtly. Say: "That sounds suspiciously like something Adolf Hitler might say" or "You certainly do remind me of Adolf Hitler."

You now know how to out-argue anybody.

Warning: Do not try to pull any of this on people who generally carry weapons.

3 Comments:

Blogger kludge said...

Dave Barry is truly odd. He has a great bit on the smoke escaping from electrial cords that is not be missed.

Thanks for posting... I returned after I found your joke from yesterday.

8:22 PM  
Blogger x_kyoko said...

You should also put another warning sign.
Warning: Don't use this if you're talking to people who actually think.

8:26 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

always useful to have a few more suggestions, esp liked the compare with Hitler idea!

9:34 PM  

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