Teenage boy talk

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Zits returns every so often to teenage boys and their communication practices. Here are two recent strips:

Here on Language Log we've posted a lot on talkativeness, especially on putative differences in talkativeness between women and men. Many people come at these matters with the assumption that each person has some "base rate" of talkativeness, and that there are significant differences between groups (like women vs. men) in their average base rates. These assumptions are very hard to test, for reasons that are implicit in these two Zits strips: talkativeness (along with many other features of speech) is exquisitely sensitive to contextual factors, like the relationship between the participants in a conversation and the purposes of the conversation (as the participants see them).

The mother-son exchange in the second strip calls to mind the dialogue in the title of Robert Paul Smith's 1960 book on boyhood: Where Did You Go? Out. What Did You Do? Nothing.


1 Comment

  1. Altissima said,

    June 30, 2008 @ 9:41 am

    The Peter Denahy song: Sort Of Dunno Nothin' , also calls to mind the Paul Smith Book.
    See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_veIGGP1Uh4
    – a perfect representation of a teenager's conversational skills!
    The lyrics can be found here:

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