On the bus with a six year old and an eight year old (my goddaughters) I make conversation. We pass a musical instrument shop. What have they got in there? I say, and Clara (six) says something about guitars, and then I say what’s that there? And Clara and Emilia look and search for the right word, but before they can say anything a man sitting next to me says “a trumpet”. Do people not realise that your conversation is strategic and aimed at particular people for particular reasons and spun in particular ways? The same thing happens when a journalist asks a question and a politician does not understand that it is feigned ignorance so that the politician will explain something to the viewing public. You see pompous politicians get angry with what they see as naive or ignorant questions like this.
But then, is not all our conversation strategic in this way? Are we ever working with pure matter? We are always coaxing material out of people: giving them a chance to show off; tactically nudging them in a certain direction; giving a speeded-up impression of who we are (when you are dating for example) because there is no time for the natural acquisition of understanding, you have an effect to make, which will ideally be an accelerated truth rather than a fabricated untruth. It occurs to me that this is something I perform badly. I do not manage to short-cut the truth about myself (the truth as I see it), am unable to package myself adequately. It should be a skill we all learn.
Anyway, it wasn’t a trumpet, it was a french horn.