been a while

So I watched Rocket Science the other day. It gets big points for (a) being a pretty darned respectable movie, even if it wasn't about debate, and (b) actually doing an accurate portrayal of high school debate. Obviously there were plenty of nits to pick (some of which are probably regional anyway), but they got all the important stuff right and captured a good deal of the "spirit" of the activity as well. And at least nobody was "on the debating team." Definitely worth your five bucks and two hours for a rental.

Then I watched the making of thingy. Bad idea (those things are always just a stupid circle jerk anyway). First of all, we got to here about the director's experience on the "public speaking team" in high school. What the deuce does that mean? Were you in debate? say you were in debate? were you in speech? then say you were in speech? What the hell is a "public speaking team" and why do you think that calling it that makes it sound more important. Arsehole.

And the director and a bunch of the actors also hit on one of my favorite pet peeve: referring to the practice of talking fast as "Spreading." Now, I've heard a bunch of debaters do this too, so let me deal with this right here. Spreading != talking fast (that's geek for is not, for you luddites out there). First of all, calling it "spreading" makes it seem like it's this magical thing that you can only learn after a pilgrimage to tibet or something. It's just like talking, only faster. All the same things that you learn to talk well at a conversational rate, you do that. only faster.

Also, "spreading" is an outcome, not a process. Spreading (which is a transitional verb, by the way. Dasher spread me out. Dasher does not spread.) is creating a situation where one's opponent has a hard time covering all of your arguments. One can spread by talking at a conversational rate. One can talk very fast and still be very bad at spreading. Talking fast is a tool to help spread someone out, true, but without strategy and research it's just talking fast. When people refer to the practice of talking fast as "spreading," a little voice in my head goes "you just don't get it, do you?"


Pave the Whales said...

Actually, "spreading" used to refer to the process.

Way back in the days when not everybody talked fast, "spreading" was a strategy. Basically, it meant "talking fast so as to make your opponent drop things."

So really, the guy is just behind on his lingo - not necessarily inaccurate.

Ryan Ricard said...

But would people say things like "I need to practice my spreading?" Constructions like that always annoy the hell out of me.

Pave the Whales said...

Yes. Yes they would.