I don’t know who sent this to me but I’ve had it a number of years and I read it every so often. It really is very funny; very funny indeed and…um…yet…um…well, it’s…it’s very funny. [I did not know who wrote it and I explicitly said so when I posted it quite a while ago. Someone missed my opening sentence and thought I was plagiarizing and informed me that humorist Dave Barry was the author. Wish I’d written it.] Here it is; enjoy it!
“I argue very well.
Ask any of my few remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties and church-gatherings. I sense that they feel a bit inferior to me so their weak grins and brief remarks before moving off are really the price I have to pay for their respect. As a sign of their great respect (and to give someone else a chance to be right for a change) they don’t often invite me when they get together. I’m humble enough to understand that; anyway you can’t expect people to continue to act maturely when I’m always able to prove them wrong.
You too can win arguments. There’s nothing magical about it. Simply follow these rules:
Suppose you’re at a party and some hotshot intellectual is expounding on the economy of Peru, a subject you know nothing about. If you’re drinking some health-fanatic drink like grapefruit juice, you’ll hang back, afraid to display your ignorance, while the hotshot enthralls your date or your wife.
But if you drink several large martinis, you’ll discover you have strong views about the Peruvian economy. You’ll be a wealth of information. You’ll argue forcefully, offering searing insights and possibly upsetting furniture. People will be impressed. Some may even leave the room because they can’t face the power of your arguments.
Make things up.
Suppose, in the Peruvian economy argument, you are trying to prove Peruvians are underpaid, a position you base solely on the fact that you are underpaid, and you’ll be hanged if you’re going to let a bunch of Peruvians be better off. Don’t say: “I think Peruvians are underpaid.” Say: “The average Peruvian’s salary in 2004, dollars adjusted for the revised tax base, is $1,452.81 per annum, which is $836.07 before the mean gross poverty level.”
NOTE: Always make up exact figures.
If an opponent asks you where you got your information, make that up, too. Say: “This information comes from Dr. Hovel T. Moon’s study for the Buford Commission published May 9, 2005. Didn’t you read it?” Say this in the same tone of voice you would use to say, “You left your smelly socks in my shower.”
Use meaningless but weighty-sounding words and phrases. Memorize this list:
“Let me put it this way”
“In terms of”
“As it were”
“So to speak”
You should also memorize some Latin abbreviations such as
“Q.E.D.,” “e.g.,” and “i.e.” These are all short for, “I speak Latin and you don’t.”
Here’s how to use these words and phrases.
Suppose you want to say: “Peruvians would like to eat more meat more often, but they don’t have enough money.”
You never win arguments talking like that. But you will win if you say: “Let me put it this way. In terms of meat-eating, vis-à-vis, Peruvians qua Peruvians, they would like to eat it more often, so to speak, but they, as it were, don’t have enough money per se. Q.E.D.”
Only a fool would challenge that statement.
Use snappy and irrelevant comebacks.
You need an arsenal of all-purpose irrelevant phrases to fire back at your opponents when they make valid points. The best are:
You’re begging the question.
You’re being defensive.
Don’t compare apples and oranges.
What are your parameters?
This last one is especially valuable. Nobody, other than mathematicians, has the vaguest idea what “parameters” means.
Here’s how to use your comebacks:
You say, “As JFK said in 1965…”
Your opponent says, “JFK died in 1963.”
You say “You’re begging the question.”
You say, “Nigerians, like most Asians…”
Your opponent says, “Nigeria is in Africa.”
You say, “You’re being defensive.”
Build a reputation before you get into an argument. This will intimidate your potential opponents (which is really everyone you meet).
You can do this by never admitting ignorance on anything.
If someone says something of interest that you never knew, make it appear to be old news. You can do this by saying things like, “Well, of course!” Or “That’s goes without saying.” Or “That’s what our first grade teacher used to drum into us.”
Your opponents will soon notice this about you (so will your few friends) and they’ll all be impressed. The proof that they’re impressed is when you notice that they stop telling you anything.
You can also build your reputation by topping every experience they’ve ever had.
If they’ve been involved in a tragedy, tell about a worse one you were in.
If they tell a funny story, tell a funnier one.
If they’ve seen a lovely sight somewhere, you tell them of something lovelier.
And don’t forget to begin each telling with, “That’s nothing, we were up in………..”
Keep this up and they’ll begin to look at you with awe in their eyes.
Closely related to this point is this: Don’t let your possible opponent (which is really everyone you meet) have his/her moment of glory.
If they’re telling a moving experience and you sense that others are impressed, short circuit the whole thing by changing the subject abruptly or your potential opponent might gain an advantage.
If you don’t think that’s appropriate you can always say, “Hmm” in a skeptical tone. That works well, especially because it casts vague doubt on the story without being specific.
Your other possible opponents (which are really everyone you meet) will notice this and fear your wisdom.
You can build your reputation as a debater by refusing to be intimidated.
It doesn’t matter that you’ve never been to Peru, or that your opponent only came back from there yesterday after living with Peruvians 32 years, having worked in local government, ditch-digging, newspaper editing and plantation work.
Remember your opinion’s as good as his so jump in with both feet, armed with your phrases and bag of tricks.
One final word, you now know how to out-argue anybody but don’t try to pull any of this on people who carry weapons.