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HOWARDISMS

In keeping with the ancient Chinese proverb that "The first step to wisdom is calling things by their right names", Howardisms are little phrases that I've made up to refer to certain hitherto unnamed common phenomena which I have experienced. If some of these phenomena have previously been named, I was unaware at the time of publication, and will respect all prior copyrights.

  • Reverse Joke Blame (RJB) - This refers to the situation in which a perfectly coherent and humorous joke is told and the listener, not perceiving the humor, blames the teller of the joke rather than his/her own ignorance for its failure. In order to combat the scourge of RJB, it is crucial that joketellers be compassionate and understanding with those who do admit their own inability to understand the joke. Only by encouraging the humor-resistant to admit their condition and through education, shall we eliminate the insecurity that lies at the heart of today's rampant level of RJB.

  • Rescue Laugh - The phenomenon where a joke is told and is not understood by any of the listeners who are present other than one who, to the joketeller's great relief, laughs heartily. This laugher's response forces the other listeners to question their own inability to understand the joke, hence acting as an extremely effective immunization to potential impending Reverse Joke Blame (RJB). A voluntary rescue laugh occurs when the laugher does not truly find the joke humorous, but laughs solely for the sake of easing the embarrassment of the joketeller, who in this case is usually a friend. An involuntary rescue laugh occurs when the laugher truly finds the joke humorous, and the RJB-immunization and resulting relief of the joketeller are only unintended side-effects.

  • Boyfriend/Girlfriend Bragging Suspicion (B/GBS) or Significant Other Bragging Suspicion (SOBS) - Unnecessarily frequent mention of one's significant other which rouses in the listeners' minds the possibility that one is simply trying to pound into their heads the existence of said significant other, for no other apparent reason than to assure oneself and the listener of real or imagined desirability. This is also closely related to the frequent practice of using one's significant other as a "human shield" against new acquaintances.

    This phenomenon, for which my friend George suggested the alternative name Significant Other Bragging Suspicion (SOBS), actually has a basis in scientific evidence. David Buss, in Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind explains that research has shown that..."Women are also more likely to induce jealousy in their partners - perhaps as a strategy of indicating to their partners that they have other mating possibilities, and thus communicating information about their desirability." In the case of B/GBS or SOBS, this occurrence is extended to also include men, as well as to be directed not only at one's partner, but to others with whom the speaker comes into contact.

  • Insecurity Induced Erotologue (IIE) - The unsolicited announcement of specific lewd activities engaged in by the speaker with the sole purpose of attempting to create in the minds of listeners a fantastic life of adventure and/or the image (real or imagined) of desirability. It is crucial to note that the veracity of the related event has absolutely no bearing on whether IIE has, in fact, taken place. It is only the intention in sharing the details that determines the extent of IIEness. Unless IIE is accompanied by the intent to harm oneself or others, it only merits a citation, and no jail time should be served. On the contrary, jail time would most likely only add to the amount of material available for future IIE.

  • Necessity Induced Overexplanation (NIO) - In a movie, television show, or play, information must be conveyed to the audience regarding character history, backstory relating to the plot, and subject matter unfamiliar to the general public. One of the most commonly used methods of conveying this information is through dialogue. Often, however, this necessity for explanation leads to exchanges between characters that are highly unnatural and forced. This results from the fact that the characters are overexplaining for the benefit of the audience, and hence saying things that would not normally be said between these particular characters.

    A great example of NIO is when, on the television show E.R., one doctor explains a disease process to another doctor in detail. While this explanation helps the audience understand the medical information behind the story, it comes across as highly unnatural, since the doctors should both already know this information, and therefore not require such explanation. Another example of NIO is when a character on a phone call repeats everything the person on the other end of the phone is saying. Part of good writing lies in making history, backstory, and subject matter explanation transparent - in other words exposing important facts in a clever way that seems lifelike and natural, not artificially and superficially stirred into the dialogue. Failing to smoothly integrate such information creates a fakeness which makes watching a show with too much NIO highly irritating.

    Note: It has come to my attention, through the commentary on the Family Guy episode "Breaking Out is Hard to Do" (on DVD Volume 3, Disc 3), that writers refer to this type of necessary but unrealistic dialogue as "laying pipe".

  • Possibility of God (POG) - Often, despite being agnostic, I find myself saying phrases like "Oh my God" or "God damn" simply out of habit. I am struck by the inherent hypocrisy of referring directly to a God of whose existence I am uncertain. Furthermore, though I'm unsure of God's existence, there are times when I'd like to appeal to him IF he is up there, just in case. So to solve these dilemmas, I coined the term POG - short for Possibility of God. Now I can refer emphatically to the potential deity - as in "By the grace of POG go I" or "POG damn you!" - at my leisure without that pesky feeling of hypocrisy. POG forbid that other agnostics suffer in silence, unable to utter divine exclamations while maintaining their integrity. This Howardism's for you!

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