the schmooze

Oy, Vey!
Halfalogues Are Here to Stay

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

"Halfalogues" and "trialogues" are "beyde" (both) annoying. A "halfalogue" is a noun meaning "one side of a two-party conversation." It's a blend of half and dialogue. A "trialogue" is a conversation or discussion between "dray" (3) people or groups.

With the popularity of the "tselularer telefon" (cell phone) we hear:

"Yeah, I'm on my way home."
"That's 'komish' (funny)."
"Vos"? (What?)
"No! I thought you were--"
"Oh, ok."

A June 10, 2011 headline read:

Mark Twain once described how disconcerting he found hearing, or overhearing, one side of a telephone conversation. Today, we call this "halfalogue." Yes, you hear questions asked; you don't hear the answer. You hear invitations given; you hear no thanks in return. You can't make head or tail of the talk because you never hear "altsding" (everything).

USA Today (May 21, 2010) wrote, "Half a loaf is supposed to be better than none, but not when it comes to overhearing half a cellphone conversation."

And Lucy Henry wrote, "This [halfalogue] commonly results in the eavesdropper's imagination ("fantazye"), filling in what they suspect to be the subject matter of the other half of what should be a dialogue. Reputations and relationships can be ruined in this way, as the eavesdropper, already having a guilty conscience himself, projects that negativity into the half conversation and often fills in subject matter implying both parties are up to no good!"

In a USA Today article, Lauren Emberson, a psychology Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University, wrote that when you hear half a conversation, you get less information and you can't predict as well. "It requires more attention. Since halfalogues really are more distracting and you can't tune them out, this could explain why people are irritated," she said.

And John, a resident of the Inwood section of New York wrote, "The only 'halfalogue' I care to hear is from Bob Newhart, but I haven't seen him on the train lately." BTW, the New Jersey Transit introduced some "quiet cars" - and AMTRAK has a designated "quiet car." That means no cell phones during the commute. "Danken Got!"

Is there a humorous side to hearing a "halfalogue"? I think so. Let's look at the B'way show, "Enter Laughing," a comedy by Joseph Stein, based on the novel by Carl Reiner. David Kolowitz (Alan Arkin) calls his mother (Sylvia Sidney), father (Marty Greene), Wanda (Barbara Dana), and Marvin (Michael J. Pollard). Marvin is David's age; he is not too good looking, a little timid, unsure of himself. He admires David, just this side of hero worship.

Here's what we hear when David enters a phone booth - Act One, Scene 4: Source: Produced by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.

DAVID. Hello, Operator, Jerome 8275. (He waits.) Hello, Papa? Listen, Papa, I won't be home for supper. No, I'm all right. I'm going to a kind of night school. For acting.
Acting . . . like in the movies. . .
No, don't put Mama on . . .
I'll tell you about it tomorrow. . .
Papa, there's somebody waiting for the phone, so don't put Mama on . . .
I'll tell you when I. . .
| Hello, Mama . . .
I'll eat at a restaurant, Mama. . .
Okay, Ma sure . . .
all right . . . .
okay . . .
all right. . . .
(Hangs up. Gets coin from pocket. Lifts receiver. Puts in coin.) Operator, I got a wrong number. I wanted Tremont 8067. . .
Thank you. I trust I haven't kept you waiting too long---Hello, Wanda? It's Dave. Listen Wanda, I won't be able to meet you tonight. Listen to this, I went for a job in a play, and they hired me. . . .
Yes, as an actor. There were about twelve other fellows, but they hired me . . . No, I'm not kidding. Listen, I have to eat supper and get back . . .
I don't know, eggs or something . . .
Okay, meat . . .
So long, Wanda. (Hangs up. Takes coin from phone, lifts receiver. Puts in coin.)
Hello, Operator, I got the wrong number. . . I wanted Fordham 7648. Thanks.
. . . coin drops.) I trust I haven't kept you waiting too long, but in my grief . . . .(Then)
Hi, Marvin? David. I did it. No kidding, they picked me from the whole bunch. About twenty guys . . .And listen, Marv . . .I got a date tonight with the leading lady. Gorgeous. We're going to go over some love scenes, know what I mean? . . ..(Laughs.)
You said it. (Laughs, then seriously.) By the way, Marv, did that laugh sound okay? . . .
You know, when I just laughed, did it sound like a person laughing? Never mind. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow. Okay. Goodbye. (Hangs up, feels for coin, finds it, laughs and runs off.)
Marjorie Wolfe agrees with John Wayne:
"Talk low, talk slow, and don't say too much."


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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

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