Friday, March 20, 2009

An Interesting Post.

Lately I've been looking at The New Yorker's offerings online. The New Yorker is the only substantive thing I read lately, unless I get adventurous and pick up a book. Otherwise it's a steady media diet of Entertainment Weekly (which, don't get me wrong, I adore), food magazines and e-mail.

The New Yorker site features a surprising number of blogs, one of them titled Interesting Times. The description is: "Semi-regular thoughts on foreign affairs, politics, and books, from George Packer."

Seriously? This struck me as possibly the worst blog title ever. Why not something more evocative, such as Wow, What a World or Here's What I'm Thinking or What's the Deal with That? I mean, who would title their blog with just a garden-variety adjective followed by a temporal noun? Oops...

Some time ago, I encountered the observation (don't remember where) that when a person responds, "That's interesting" to someone when he or she is talking, that is a blaring sign that the listener is really fucking bored. In this context, "stultifying" may be substituted for "interesting," and Packer's blog may as well be titled Whatever, I Just Don't Care. (However, it's worth noting that when faced with a list of blogs with which I'm completely unfamiliar, one of the few I clicked was Interesting Times. Now what does that say about me?)

Ever since I heard that comment, if someone says "that's interesting" when I am talking, my first instinct is to apologize, to pack up my conversary and hit the road. My banter has been labeled "interesting," the conversational equivalent of being voted off the island. What could be more damning?

However. In my case, when I am listening and I say something is interesting, about 50 percent of the time, I actually mean it -- it's just that I simply have nothing else to say. So, if someone is telling me about, say, the intricacies of a boxing match while I am watching it, I may actually find that interesting, but am unable to offer more than my approval for hearing about it, and maybe another question. I'm not going to be able to say something like, "Yeah, I remember when I was in the ring, that was totally true," or, "Exactly. Remember that classic match in 1994?"

Often, when I find myself using the word "interesting," it's not because the other person is boring. It's because I am boring and have nothing else to say. This sometimes makes me think about trying synonyms, as if using a different word would make me sound any less like a) I am insulting you or b) I have a tea bag for a brain. What if I broke out fascinating, absorbing, intriguing, or some other word? I'd sound more like Barbara Walters, for one thing, but would it break me out of the ennui of "interesting"?

How often do you use the word, and what would happen if you tried to stop using it for one week? Now wouldn't that be... enthralling?

Music: "Another Day"


  1. Anonymous9:11 PM

    Of course, if you were Barbara Walters (Baba Wawas?) you'd say, "Intweeging..."

    If I'm trying to front earnestnest when saying "interesting", I think I usually say "That's really interesting..." (not intentionally, just trying to deconstruct past blather here...) -- but then, I often associate the use of "Interesting" with a passive-aggressive translation of "You are a total fucking idiot and what you just said is either wrong or useless..." But that's when it's used as a one word sentence, and accompanied by a knowing head-nod -- even worse: "Hmmm... interesting." Add on a knowing head-nod and safe to say you're talking to a conversational douchebag... or someone who just thinks your interesting...

    By the way -- nice tune on this post -- though the mouthless asian lady in the video is, well, interesting -- and by interesting, I mean will totally give me nightmares...

  2. Anonymous9:17 PM

    Whoops -- I misused "your" -- I meant "yore" -- now that's interesting... to me...

  3. Oh I don't know, I think sometimes things are just interesting and don't need much more said than that. Does that make sense?

  4. The blog title may be a reference to the infamous Chinese curse.

  5. Z, you are correct, the inflection of "interesting" is important. And you're welcome for the nightmares.

    Jackson, I think you're right. Now I feel extra interesting.

  6. Anonymous9:47 PM

    You could always just say it in German ... "Ja, das ist interessant!" and wouldn't that be interesting?

  7. Anonymous12:50 PM

    I always try to follow up "That's interesting" with a question so that it appears that I am actually interested. (I am a devotee of the vice of sincerity.) If I'm really bored, I tend to just say "Huh" or "Oh."


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