Cool Downplayer, Bro

So a short exercise in speech-act analysis.  Discussions threads are often populated with folks who love to go on and on.  Often about things only loosely relevant to the issue.  The same goes for Q&A periods at philosophy papers — you'll regularly get a question that isn't a question but more someone taking an opportunity to address a roomful of people about whatever they thought last.  It's irritating.  I've started to call these "I like turtles" contributions, in honor of this classic internet moment. But how to respond?  I had taken the route of saying things like: "That's not a question," or "Very nice and equally irrelevant."  These are sometimes too confrontational.  Well, there's a new internet meme that fills this void.  It even comes with an image.

Well, that's just about perfect, isn't it?  Sarcasm.  Of course.  "Cool Story, Bro" is great for these interwebs, but what about amongst the academics?  Well:

Alright!  All done. 

So some explanation.  The first thing to note is that the two use either a term of affection or esteem in addressing the other speaker.  The effect, however, is not that of expressing affection or esteem, but of patronizing the other speaker.  The downplaying is similar to scarequoting — you use the terms and even full locutions of endorsement, but put the marks around them in order to express exactly the opposite sentiment. 

"Cool story" and "Astonishing theory," are more strictly sarcastic.  Again, the strategy is to use the terms of esteem to express rejection, but one uses some cue to mark that one is flouting the rule of quality (tone of voice, or here, the toothy grin, wide eyes, and fonzie thumb).

The one thing that the first has over the second is that it is so curt.  The professor one requires more time and syllables, so it loses the quickfire element, which is part of the appeal of the strategy.

4 thoughts on “Cool Downplayer, Bro”

  1. A. Glorious exposition, comrade.
    B. Your definition of "new" is not the same as mine, as "Cool story, bro" was in the urban dictionary 2 years ago. In other words, "Lulz, dumb old logic dude probably thinks email is a cool new form of communication."

  2. I will say that I knew A was coming. But B?  No.  I'll concede old. But dumb?  Is the point  that I used the word 'new' for a phenomenon that's, like, so 2009? Fine. I guess I spend more of my time reading books than discussion threads. Guilty as charged. And so:  Excellent objection, interlocutor.

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