Small talk: the nonreferential use of language to share feelings or establish a mood of sociability rather than to communicate information or ideas; ritualized formulas intended to attract the attention of the listener or prolong communication.
Etymology:Coined by the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, from the Greek, "spoken"
Examples and Observations:
- "How are you?"
"How ya doin'?"
"Have a nice day!"
"Cold enough for you?"
"This train is really crowded."
"What's your sign?"
"What's your major?"
"Do you come here often?"
"How about those Mets?"
"Some weather we're having."
- "Speech to promote human warmth: that is as good a definition as any of the phatic aspect of language. For good or ill, we are social creatures and cannot bear to be cut off too long from our fellows, even if we have nothing really to say to them."
(Anthony Burgess, Language Made Plain, 1975)
- "Phatic communication refers also to trivial and obvious exchanges about the weather and time, made up of ready-made sentences or foreseeable statements. . . . Therefore this is a type of communication that establishes a contact without transmitting a precise content, where the container is more important then the content."
(F. Casalegno and I.M. McWilliam, "Communication Dynamics in Technological Mediated Learning Environments." International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, Nov. 2004)
- "Phatic communication, or small talk, is an important social lubricant. In the words of Erving Goffman, 'The gestures which we sometimes call empty are perhaps in fact the fullest things of all.'"
(Diana Boxer, Applying Sociolinguistics. John Benjamins, 2002)
- "'Nice weather we're having' is perfect, Leonard. It's a subject that lends itself to speculation about future weather, discussion of past weather. Something everyone knows about. It doesn't matter what you say, it's just a matter of keeping the ball rolling til you both feel comfortable. Eventually if they're at all interested you'll get through to them."
(Phil in the one-act play Potholes by Gus Kaikkonen, 1984)
- "i hide my blood wet hands when you call
and we talk about the weather."
(Laura Hartman, "talk about the weather" the 2river view, Fall 2001)