Tuesday, February 28, 2006


If you deal with particular people for long enough you start to notice speech patterns. I'm sure those of you hardy enough to have read all my outpourings will have noticed that I have certain phrases I overuse. I'm trying to do better but sometimes 'on the other hand' or 'you'll have noticed' just pour out of my fingertips and into notepad.

In 1973 when I was attending night school at RMIT we noticed that one of our teachers seemed to overuse 'actually'. Actually it's very easy to fall into that particular trap.

A bit of laughter over beers at the John Curtin pub at the silliness of it all. Youth is so much less inclined to forgive.

One night we decided to do something about it. So we, probably half the class of 15 or so students, sat down and did the prisoner thing, making a vertical mark on our page for each time the teacher said 'actually'. Every fifth 'actually' was a horizontal slash to make up the fifth.

I'd reckon he got to 40 before he started noticing a strange unanimity amongst his students. We, being immature bastards, were smirking, egging each other on and generally being dicks.

But he had our number. Looking back on it now I see how skilfully he did it. It probably didn't take long, after noticing how we made marks in unison, to realise it was his use of 'actually'. Once he'd realised he came out with the following remarkable sentence.

'Actually, it's actually possible that you can actually make it actually work if you actually do...'

Yeah, I don't remember the exact wording 33 or so years later. He was the first to laugh but we weren't far behind.

We had a beer with him later that evening.

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