The Conversation Killer (UG)

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Official UnderGuide Entry

Welcome to the laboratory of Roadkill and Arthbard Vootenoy. Here, we have gathered in the name of science (and at the request of the ACF). We are currently working on the ultimate conversation killer. When activated, the conversation killer will stop any conversation right in its tracks.

What are the Moral Implications of Conversation Killing?

This is a question that has weighed much on our minds1. The fact is, however, that conversation killing can be used for good. Imagine, if you will, that you are having a conversation. It is not a good conversation. In fact, it is an incredibly boring conversation. You want to get out of it, but you don't know how. Just to stop talking would be rude. No, this requires a much more sophisticated approach. This is where the conversation killer becomes useful. When the conversation killer is used, the conversation should die a more or less natural death, thus allowing the participants to move on to a much more interesting conversation elsewhere.

Conversation Killers

Here are the possible conversation killers that we are currently experimenting with. Some of these show great promise, while others are very flawed. We list them all here for completeness.

The "Yep"

The yep is the first conversation killer, stumbled upon quite by accident. It is fairly versatile and can be used in a number of situations. For example:

That was a great game last night, wasn't it?


Man, that cherry pie was mighty spectacular.

The basic theory here is that the yep can be used to respond to any number of different statements, but it doesn't leave much room for the conversation to continue naturally.

It should be noted, however, that the yep is not perfect. There are a number of possible replies, such as: "That really killed the conversation, didn't it?" However, repeated usage of the yep will cause the other party eventually to lose interest, thus effectively killing the conversation.

The "Nope"

The nope operates on the same basic principle as the yep. It shares most of the same strengths and weaknesses. In fact, someone with a shaky grasp of honesty might attempt to use the two interchangeably. This, however, can backfire. Using the yep or the nope in the wrong place can be dangerous. To demonstrate, let's take the above examples and replace the yep with the nope:

That was a great game last night, wasn't it?
What do you mean!? That game was awesome! You don't believe me? Here, I have it on tape, let me show it to you in slow motion pointing out all of its excellent moments.


Man, that cherry pie was mighty spectacular.
What!? You dirty, no-good, son of a female canine! My mother was in the kitchen for hours baking that pie!

In the worst-case scenario, improper use of the yep or the nope could lead to a flame war which is nearly invulnerable to even the most potent conversation killers. Used properly, though, the combined usage of the yep and the nope can increase the effectiveness of both, as demonstrated in the following:

That movie sucked.
I didn't like it. Did you?
So, we're in agreement.
Um... Okay, then.

The "Ah"

The yep and nope don't always make suitable replies. They are particularly useful when replying to questions. Some statements, however, are of a non-inquisitive nature. For these, we have the ah. The ah is usually followed closely by three periods (also known as an ellipsis) like this: "Ah..." Its general meaning is something along the lines of: "I'm listening...Go on," but as it leaves little to no room for reply, it makes quite a handy conversation killer. Take the following example:

I'm so upset... My dog got hit by a car today. I've had him for fifteen years. He was my best friend... I don't know what I'm going to do, now that he's gone...

The ah, as you may have noticed, is basically a variation on the yep. The difference here is that, whereas the yep indicates a positive response and the nope indicates a negative one, the ah is completely neutral. Of course, the yep, nope, and ah aren't the only such terms. Other useful single-syllable words include "hmm," "uh," "nah," and "um." Those looking for multi-syllabled options might try "uh-huh" and "indeed."

Contagious Diseases

When face to face with someone, a good way to stop the conversation is to convince them that you have some horrible disease. There are a couple of tricks to this. The first is to make it sound convincing. The second is finding a way to insert it into the conversation naturally. After all, something like the following is unlikely to be effective:

So, I picked up these shoes for only $10, just the other day. Quite good, hey?
I have ebola.
Ha, ha. Good one. So anyways, this guy in the shoestore...

The problem here is that blurting out that you have such a terrible disease demonstrates that you are aware of and concerned about the problems associated with being in a public place with it. As such, you would probably not be here having this conversation. Also, it would be advisable to use something besides ebola. Ebola is a well-known disease and most people will tend to understand that it is rather unlikely that someone in the area would be infected by this virus without having some sort of news coverage of the resulting quarantine.

If the disease is worked into the conversation and mentioned as sort of an oh-by-the-way thing, it demonstrates that - while you may have this disease - you are obviously unconcerned about the ramifications associated with spreading it to others. This will make the situation more believable. Also, it is a good idea to stay away from anything that is too well-known. There are plenty of obscure diseases present that people know little about. If you don't know any of these, it is entirely possible to make one up. If you are able to come up with a good scientific-sounding name, people are very likely to believe you. Believability, here, is the key. While it is good to make the disease sound unpleasant, if it sounds too unpleasant, you may inadvertently raise the doubts of other conversation participants.

Using this advice, let us now see how we can better handle the preceding situation:

So, I picked up these shoes for only $10, just the other day. Quite good, hey?
Yeah. As a matter of fact, I picked up a good pair of shoes myself, only last month. Had to take them, back, though, 'cause I got Encephilohypocrineria from them, and I've been in intensive care for the last week. Almost lost a foot to it. One of the nurses got squirted in the eye with a stream of pus. Apparently, it's quite contagious, and I have to go back tomorrow to see if they're going to have to amputate my toes...

One of the downsides of this method is that it requires you to be in the same room with the other person2. Thus, it is generally ineffective when used over the phone or on the internet. Theoretically, it is conceivable that you could convince someone of the existence of a disease that can be passed through telephones wires or a modem, but this does not seem likely. It is possible, however, to replace the disease with a computer virus. This could stop an on-line conversation fairly well.

<smiley> smiley - smiley

Most of us agree that smilies are pretty nifty when used in on-line communications. They can also be useful, however, as conversation killers. Given an abundance of smilies, chances are there is one that would make a suitable reply to practically any statement. When used alone, though, it is very difficult to reply to a smiley. Take the following:

Posting 12705: I think a lot of people are pretty upset with the moderation thing, but I think the towers are working very hard to keep researchers happy while complying with BBC restrictions.
Posting 12706: smiley - ok

There are, of course, a few possible replies. The most common is to reply with another smiley. This generally does little to revive the conversation, so chances are, if another reply isn't come up with quickly, the conversation will die off. It is possible to comment on the smiley, itself. Something like this might do the trick:

Posting 12707: Why I remember the days when there was only one smiley. It didn't laugh. It didn't cry. It didn't look like various types of animals. It just sat there and stared at you.

Of course, if a statement like this is immediately followed up by another single smiley, there really aren't a whole lot of places for the conversation to go.

Naturally, this really only works well in electronic communications. Theoretically, were it somehow possible to insert a smiley into face-to-face interview, the desired effect could be obtained. Unfortunately, for now, we don't have the technology to make this possible.

The Well-Thought-Through Response

The well-thought-through response takes a bit more effort than other conversation killers, like the yep and the nope. However, it can be quite potent. Theoretically, if Conversationist A uses a well-thought-through response, then Conversationist B becomes intimidated. Conversationist B either can't or won't put in the effort necessary for an equally well-thought-through reply. Accordingly... no examples will be given to demonstrate the proper usage of the well-thought-through response, as we just don't feel like thinking that hard.

Theoretical Killers

The Conversation Bomb

This theoretical device could prove to be the world's ultimate conversation killer. A working conversation bomb has yet to be built or tested, but we figure we can probably whip one up in a week or two.

The idea goes something like this. The yep is positive. The nope is negative. The ah is neutral. The proton is also positive. The electron is also negative. The neutron is also neutral. Thus, the yep, nope, and ah are very similar to subatomic particles. It is believed that it will be possible to make them behave in subatomic-particle-type ways. The result would be a conversation killer atom. As we all know, atoms can be split. The result of such a split is a big, big boom. Splitting a conversation killer atom in such a way should bring never-before-seen destruction and mayhem to even the most vibrant of conversations.

To insure that the conversation bomb utilizes the maximum anti-conversation power, work is being done to infect CK-atoms with infectious diseases. Since diseases normally only infect multi-atomic, living creatures, these diseases will, obviously, have to be hypnotized to make them cooperative. Once the CK-atom is satisfactorily infected, it will then be bombarded with a series of single-smiley posts in order to generate large amounts of energy. The CK-atom should then split, decimating any conversation within a fifty-mile radius.

The Conversation Bullet

In the world of conversation warfare, the conversation bomb will most likely be the most powerful weapon available for many years to come. However, it is not always necessary to decimate conversations over such a large area. Oftentimes, it may be necessary to send in ground troops instead. For these instances, we are hard at work developing the conversation bullet.

Our work, in this regard, has not been easy. We have, however, done a lot of promising research in the area of creating well-thought-through-response-tipped bullets. Though other conversation killers have demonstrated a certain degree of effectiveness against weaker conversations, well-thought-through-response-tipped bullets seem to be the most efficient way of killing heavily-armored conversations. The more well-thought-through the response, the better it is able to convince the armor in question to let it through.

To wield a conversation bullet, of course, requires the existence of a conversation gun. We currently have three prototypes. The standard version is the conversation pistol. It can hold a clip of six semi-well-thought-through-response-tipped bullets. It is the weakest of the three firearms, but is small and easily concealed, so is good for stealth missions. It can also be equipped with its own silencer, which attaches to the end of the weapon and simulates the sound of a librarian saying "shhhh!"

For dispatching several conversations in a short time - and to make things immensely more interesting in the inevitable 'Conversation Deathmatch' video game we feel sure will appear at some point in the future - we have the conversation tommy gun. It holds forty bullets at a time and is able to fire them off at a rate of 90 responses per minute. It is incredibly useful for clearing out a room of conversations and has, for some reason, proven to be especially effective against conversations featuring guys named Tommy. Because of this, we feel the conversation tommy gun will be very popular at bad dinner parties thrown by men named Tommy.

The third prototype is the most powerful and, let's face it, therefore the one you most want to hear about. It is the conversation bazooka. It only holds a single well-thought-through response, but we assure you that the response in question will be extremely well thought through. We have borrowed responses from such people as Socrates, Albert Einstein, and that guy who won on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? The first guy. You know, the one that used his lifeline to call his dad. Yeah, that one. The conversation bazooka should be able to take out very large, extremely well-armored conversations that the other conversation firearms are ineffective against.

Though these are the only three working prototypes, plans are afoot for a conversation sniper rifle. We have yet to nail down the exact specifications, but we hope to be able to take out a conversation at a distance of five hundred yards.

1Is there such a thing as conversation heaven? Do conversations have souls? If they do, might it not be that they should be left to die at some point in time? Maybe as a sort of kindness? If conversations are stretched too long might they not suffer unnecessarily? Would the conversations themselves feel the pain, or the participants in said conversations? If the participants feel the pain, might it not spread to other conversations they are part of? Might there come a time when a conversation should be killed to keep it from infecting other conversations? And so on...2Further care may also be needed with this example, since it may require you to spend the rest of the evening hobbling or walking bow-legged.

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