April 2, 2010: I posted this on Facebook, and quickly realized that if I was going to be this hilarious and brutally clever, I needed what any self-respecting college graduate working 12-hour days needs: a blog.
English is an amazing language. With over half a million words, it’s the largest, and best-known language on the planet, and it’s still growing. But there isn’t a word for everything.
I was watching some reality TV the other day (the hair cutting one), which mostly consists of a bunch of hair stylists being super friendly one minute, then brutally snappy the next. A couple of them were having a pointless argument which I was mindlessly enjoying when I realized that one of them was using nothing but non sequiturs to win the argument. And it was working. It went something like this:
x-You don’t know how to do a pixie cut.
o-Where did you learn to cut hair?
o-I bet it was ghetto.
x-Your pixie cut looks like crap.
o-Your pants look like crap.
I’ve had conversations like this; they make me crazy, and I’m not ashamed to say that the last time this happened (philosophy class at USC), I snapped. I ended up completely abandoning our discussion to berate this guy on derailing the conversation just to gain the illusion of victory. I remember saying things like, “Stick to the topic, or stop talking,” and “I feel like we’re having two different conversations, and yours is dumb.”
Why isn’t there a word for this person? The English language has a word for just about everything, so why not someone who depends solely upon non sequiturs to win a discussion?
Instead of making up a whole new word, I propose that this word already exists; all we need to do is modify the definition to include those brainless shells of people who choose to free associate their way through conversations.
Though currently confined to use within the railway community, derailer is an English word for a device that intentionally takes a runaway railcar off its track. I can think of no better metaphor for people who obliterate coherent discussion with their inconsequential input on a regular basis than a device whose sole purpose is to screw up the forward progress of a strong, useful machine.
Derailer. Use it, people. Use it to shame your family, friends and coworkers into becoming more useful conversationalists, and save them from the vengeful gaze of the ghost of Productive Conversation (yes, it’s dead, you killed it).