Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Never say never
Many absolute statements are nonsense. Back in February I blogged about One-track minds: exactly, absolutely, always. Negative absolutes are as bad or worse. For example:
“Without exception, you should never start your speech by telling a joke.”
What if it was for a Toastmasters Humorous Speech Contest? Never does belong in warning statements where there are lethal consequences. Avoid it otherwise.
Using never (or not any) may inspire contrary behavior. On page 93 of his autobiographical 1989 book, Chuck Amuck, famous animator Chuck Jones described how producer Eddie Selzer had led him and Mike Maltese to create animated cartoons:
“He once appeared in the doorway of our story room while Mike Maltese and I were grappling with a new story idea. Suddenly a furious dwarf stood in the doorway: ’I don’t want any gags about bullfights, bullfights aren’t funny!’ Exactly the words he used to Fritz Freleng about never using camels. Out of that dictum came Sahara Hare, one of the funniest cartoons ever made, with the funniest camel ever made.
Having issued his angry edict, Eddie stormed back to his office. Mike and I eyed each other in silent wonderment. ‘We’ve been missing something,’ Mike said. ‘I never knew there was anything funny about bullfighting until now. But Eddie’s judgment is impeccable. He’s never been right yet.’ ‘God moves in wondrous ways, his story ideas to beget,’ I replied.
Result: Bully for Bugs - one of the best Bugs Bunny cartoons our unit ever produced.”