October 26th, 2006


OHO info


Still on the subject of social conversation....

Some people feel that they MUST make conversation, and this takes the form of asking for information which could not be of ANY possible relevance to them. I know an elderly gentleman who seems so insatiably curious about the minutest details of the lives of the people he is speaking to. As soon as the initial "hello"s are over, he will start off: "So, are you married?" "Yes". "How many children?" "Two." (probably here the other person, if they are like me, is fighting down an insane desire to say Fourteen.)"And where are they living?" "In the US." "WHERE in the US?" "One in Dallas and one in Kalamazoo." "Do they live in houses or apartments?" "Apartments". "How many floors?"....and so it goes.

And for every answer, the gentleman looks highly interested, and before adding the next question, responds with one sound that takes the place of a word: "Oho!" (Meaning, "appadiyaa" in Tamizh or "houthaa" in Kannada, or "is that so?" or "oh, really?" in English.)

I am NOT joking, this gentleman asked my daughter how many balconies she had in her flat and how many potted plants she had on the balcony. She lives in St Louis and I do not envisage him, over 80 years old now, ever visiting to verify the answer. But...he is making conversation, and is interested. EVERYTHING is grist to his curiosity/conversation mill. "How does your husband go to work?" " He takes the car." "Oho....does he have a driver?" "Yes." "Oho. Is the driver married?" (I kid you not.)

So now, when any of us gets information that is of no use to us whatsoever, we designate it "OHO info"! I was just retailing to KM the domestic help-related travails of my neighbour, and after listening to me, KM smiled, and with a twinkle, said, "oHO!" and we both cracked up!