BOSTON. This city, a center of medical research and home to some of the world’s greatest teaching hospitals, is also a four-way intersection for that most fundamental function of the human experience: talk, and lots of it.
“We’ve got all kinds of cool swag like tote bags and mousepads and fleece pullovers and stress-relieving squeezy balls and t-shirts and did I mention tote bags and . . .”
“How are we different from the other primates?” asks Dr. Gwendolyn Geoffrey-Burns, a post-doctoral researcher in human and animal behavior. “We don’t go ‘Oot-greet!’ and shake sticks at each other, we raise eyebrows and make snarky, supercilious comments.”
“Neener, neener, neener–I can see your weiner!”
That sort of deep thinking is the occasion for an inter-disciplinary symposium this week in the Boston-Cambridge scientific community that seeks to bring an end to a curse that has plagued humankind since the first chimpanzee said “Back off, Jack–I saw her first,” to a competing male: logorrhea, a combined physical-mental condition that afflicts approximately 86 million out of 328 million Americans.
“The most common symptom of logorrhea is the inability to know when to shut up,” says Dr. Lionel Ward, a 2020 MacArthur “genius” grant nominee who was eliminated when he fouled an M.I.T. professor with three seconds left in Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semi-final round. “People–and I don’t want to mention any names other than Clarence Dogues, a professor emeritus at Tufts–think the world wants to hear their semi-coherent ramblings while they’re internally collecting their thoughts in the hope of coming up with some with aphorism or apercu or pithy quip to wrap up a talk when everybody knows they’re just going on and on for no good reason at all because they didn’t have anything original to say in the first place and as long as you’re up could you get me a Diet Dr. Pepper, thanks.”
Logorrhea typically increases during election years, which accounts for a recent uptick in the disease and the medical/psychiatric communities heightened concern. “A lot of people discount logorrhea, saying it’s just talk, what’s the big deal,” said Dr. Armand Gillespie at a panel discussion yesterday afternoon. “But it’s more complicated and nuanced than that, you have to view it in context, also consider the externalities,” he continued before being cut off by the moderator.
Three minutes is plenty of time.
“Armand, with all due respect,” said Dr. Clea Victor of Tufts School of Veterinary Psychology, “we only have three hours and I see some members of the audience nodding off, even drooling, so I’m going to use an egg timer to limit the speechifying today, otherwise people are just going to run on and on and on and I would also ask panel members not to use reduplications such as ‘yadda yadda yadda’ as filler between their most complex thoughts, otherwise we’ll never get out of here.”