Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ignorance unravelled

Lately, I've been frequently told that I plead ignorance a little too often. No conversation with me would be complete without a few I dunno's. One friend, conversation with whom only recently upgraded from the hi-bye variety, was thoroughly bewildered at the frequency of occurence of that particular phrase. Out of genuine, well-meaning curiosity, he blurted out 'How on earth did you manage to crack CAT, when you reply 'I dunno' to four out of five questions I ask you?'. Notwithstanding the fact that the CAT, thank heavens, is not a technical exam, his confusion is understandable. And when I look back to a time when 'I know!' was as much of a catch-phrase with me as the opposite is now - well, the wheel has come half circle, I guess.

Anyway, for the uninitiated, take heart, it's not as bad as it seems. There's more to an 'I dunno' than meets the eye; here's a primer to get you started, decoding that annoyingly regular expression. The most important thing to remember when you encounter this regex is that it comes in different flavours. And each of them signifies something new. So without further ado, I present to you Fiddle's Five Flavours of Ignorance for Beginners. Enjoy maadi!

1. The Filler - Sometimes, when yours truly is feeling particularly chatty, she dispenses with the conventional Um-Hmm-Mmm family of fillers, and opts for a higher species. One that has a meaning, but need not mean it. Yes, you, reader with disbelief and exasperation mixed on your face, you've got it right - an 'I dunno'! All the listener has to do is wait a few seconds, while she fumbles with the flashlights, and, hallelujah! Darkness is replaced with light! Ignorance with knowledge!

'So what exactly is all this fuss about the N-deal about, anyway?'
'Oh I dunno... See, the UPA's yapping on about the deal ending our nuclear apartheid, the Left is convinced we're ageeing to dance to Uncle Sam's tune, and the BJP is just sore they couldn't swing it when they were in power. Everyone else is, as usual, singing praises, advocating caution or muttering darkly, depending on how close to the fence they're sitting. '

2. Bother-me-not - Although the author of this post usually tries not to be purposely unhelpful, there are occasions when the effort is simply not worth it. Especially when an answer, the best that she can summon, would anyway be vaguely incomplete, or completely vague, as the case may be. Sample this -

'What exactly is Brats' project there?'
Ideal answer - 'Rate limiting requests to a web caching server named Squid'
Possibly expected answer - 'Some squid thingy'
Probably received answer - 'I dunno'

3. Breath-saver - Quite often, it might happen that I do know a little more than nothing about what I'm asked, but one reply could lead to another question, which might well be asking for a flavour-five (see below) 'I dunno'. So I take the wiser of option of saving time, effort and thinking, and make it simpler for all concerned.

'Why do you go home every other weekend?'
'If my parents had their way, I'd be going every weekend. But seeing how all I do when home is sleep, sleep, and sleep some more, so much that they wonder if I have some disorder, I dunno why they want me to come.'

In other words, 'I dunno.'

4. Sarcaustic - Some questions are plain stupid. You are not supposed to ask them, in the first place. They really deserve a nice, sharp, biting answer, only I don't much feel like having the conversation, to begin with.

'You lost your laptop? I mean, ha ha, how can someone lose their laptop, for crying out loud?'
'I dunno'

And lastly,

5. Face Value - Ignorance - true, blue, through and through . I haven't the foggiest idea what you're talking about.

'Hey, what's SMPS? How does it work?'
'I dunno.'