All I had to say was “yada, yada, yada” and I became old pals with the stranger next to me in line at the Truro Post Office.
He had wanted to make a point about something we were chatting about, and he asked me if I ever watched Seinfeld.
I blurted, “Yada, yada, yada.”
That’s all it took.
The line was a lengthy one—locals, summer residents, assorted tourists to Cape Cod. So by the time I reached the postal clerk at the counter, I had learned that my new friend lived in neighboring Provincetown and days earlier had been struck on crowded Commercial Street by a bicycle driven by John Waters, the celeb film director who has a home there.
What happened to me in the post office was a powerful demonstration of frame of reference. What writers call allusion—like a shorthand to explain an idea.
Each of us has a unique frame of reference that stems from our individual IQ, age, race, gender, culture, education, experiences, social conditioning and more.
These factors form a filter through which we view the world and create our personal perception of reality.
But if each of us has an exclusive perception of reality, how do we communicate, do business with and have meaningful relationships with other people?
This is where allusions come in. For communication to be successful, we rely on similarities that are based on shared experiences, interests and agreements. They provide the connections.
Allusions to idioms, names and plotlines from the Seinfeld TV series that ran from 1989 to 1998 have become common in many conversations I’ve had. Seinfeld scenarios repeatedly come up as shared reference points that make for immediate and impactful illustration:
No soup for you!
Not that there's anything wrong with that!
There was shrinkage!
Where Greek mythology gave us allusions to an Adonis, a harpy and a muse, Shakespeare coined a Iago, a Romeo and a Shylock. Seinfeld’s offerings? Soup Nazi, sponge-worthy and master of his domain.
If you think I’m over-analyzing what was never intended to be more than a comedy, consider this.
Medical students at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School are learning about psychiatric disorders by studying Seinfeld.
“It’s a show about a pretty significant amount of psychiatry,” says Dr. Anthony Tobia.
He’s created a database of teaching points from the show’s episodes, something that took him two years. Third- and fourth-year medical students are assigned to watch two episodes a week and then gather to discuss the psychopathology demonstrated on each.
“You have a very diverse group of personality traits that are maladaptive on the individual level,” Tobia said. “When you get these friends together, the dynamic creates a plot: Jerry’s obsessive compulsive traits combined with Kramer’s schizoid traits, with Elaine’s inability to forge meaningful relationships and with George being egocentric.”
I have to agree with one of his students, who said: “I had watched the show as a kid, certainly not understanding it to an extent that I think I do now.”
In my next blog, “Gaudeamus Igitur?”
Read my newest book, Fat Guy in a Fat Boat, in print or Kindle from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Guy-Boat-Peter-Yaremko/dp/0990905012/
Also available is my e-book, A Light from Within, about the small moments of our lives that seem commonplace until they are examined under a creative lens.
- Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00R3SF200
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