Give me a word and I will make a sentence – or weave a story – from the prompt of a single word. The blogosphere ably illustrates how people can also respond to a single word prompt with a suitable image – all different from one another.
Many of these images, I sometimes think, could serve as an adequate prompt for a story or article. I used to provide interesting images as prompts for Grade 8 pupils to use for their initial impromptu speeches. Being able to talk off the cuff is a social skill we could all benefit from learning. For these young children, making up something to talk about was generally easier to accomplish from a visual than from the single word or phrase I might have given the more senior pupils as a prompt.
It is sometimes called ‘making small talk’ and is a response to the archetypal need to fill the awkward gap when meeting someone for the first time, or attending a function out of your usual area of knowledge or interest. What do you say at the opening of an art exhibition or the launch of a book about the antics of women in the early eighteenth century; or when you end up sitting with a group of strangers at a wedding?
Give me a word, any word, which will give me a clue to the interests of the people I am mingling with, you might wish.
The philosopher, John Locke, had a point when he said that the only fence against the world is a thorough knowledge of it. Placed in the social contexts above, it helps to have a broad general knowledge so that you can ‘hook’ into conversations and, eventually perhaps, steer them towards an area or topic that is more familiar and on firmer ground for you.