Odd Out of Context

If you overheard the following sentence from a random stranger, would you think it odd?

“I want to pack llamas tonight.”

I said this to a friend on the way out of work, and she chuckled at the sentence because, out of context, it is kind of strange.  The implied meaning makes it clear: I am moving and I collect llamas.  Someone who knows these two things about me immediately understands the sentence.  Without that knowledge, it’s a somewhat funny statement.

Isn’t context a wonderful thing?

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Playing with Words

There are many ways to say the same thing, and this is true in books as well as life.  For a fun exercise, I decided to play with a typical piece of everyday dialog.  This is between a man and a woman, and the results are amusing.

Here is the basic dialog:

       “Hello.”

       “Hi, how are you doing?”

       “Good, and you?”

       “Fine, thanks for asking.”

First variation: minimize the dialog.  Here is the same conversation in one sentence:

     Tom and Mary shared a casual greeting as their paths crossed in the front lobby.

Second variation: add physical descriptors.  Keeping the context casual, here it is with more info.

     “Hello,” Tom said as he smiled slightly.

     Mary nodded in return as she replied, “Hi, how are you doing?”

     The two drew near to each other as their paths crossed.  Answering quickly, Tom said, “Good, and you?”

     As they continued on their separate ways, Mary’s casual response of “Fine, thanks for asking” was lost in the crowd.

Third variation: add context.  This time, the action and inflection change.

     “Hello,” Tom said silkily as he stepped into the space behind Mary’s shoulder.

     Turning her face toward his, Mary reached for his hand.  “Hi,” she replied warmly.  “How are you doing?”

     “Good,” he whispered into her ear.  She grinned as he asked, voice full of innuendo, “And you?”

      “Fine,” she said with a smile as she turned her whole body into his embrace.  “Thanks for asking.”

Fourth variation: change inflection.  Here we have a very different inflection, and different context.

     “Hello?” he said, scorn filling his voice.

     Mary stood in the door.  “Hi,” she replied, anger lacing the word.  “How are you doing?”

     Tom glared at her and threw his response in her face with a smirk.  “Good.  And you?”

    “Fine, thanks for asking,” she answered, sarcasm dripping from every word.

Final variation: vary the words.  This conversation says the same thing, but not in the same words.

    “Greetings,” Tom said lightly to the woman at the table as he sat.

     “Howdy,” she replied with a smile, continuing to eat her lunch.  “How’s life?”

     “Not too shabby.  How about yourself?” was the response, as Tom opened a bag of chips.

    Mary grinned at her friend.  “Hanging in there, thanks!”   

Thanks for reading, that was fun!