Being the sort of nerds we are, Nate and I have a lot of catch phrases that we use in our lives. These are phrases that allude to other conversations and act as a sort of short-hand in our day to day existences. Rather than relate an entire story that we’ve already told each other a million times, or worse, we were both there for, but don’t really require an entire rehashing, we now have entire conversations with nothing but punchlines.
In a weird way, this is one of the ways that we know we’re good for one another.
This sort of behavior is common among our friends. Among geeks, it’s common to reference movie quotes or obscure song lyrics that will only make sense if you have shared context – everyone has seen that show or movie or knows that band or was there for that moment. In the same way that our generation talks about where we were on 9/11 and our parents’ generation talks about where they were during the moon landing or JFK’s assassination (one of the ways in which we establish our shared context), it is common for geeks to talk about the Princess Bride or Holy Grail or the Goonies with many of the same reverent tones. But because we have all seen those movies, we don’t need to ask whether we remember them; they are indelibly part of our cultural context. We establish that by shouting, “Inconceivable!” or inquiring after the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.
Shared context is the cornerstone of understanding. Nate’s and my understanding of one another is filled with pop-culture references, past conversations with one another, and characters we’ve pretended to be during the course of the games we’ve played together and separately. It’s not that we don’t have important conversations about politics and economics, religion and social policy. It’s just that even those conversations are filled with lines like:
* That guy? Fuck that guy.
* I’m thinking about cheese.
* And that’s when the fight started.
It’s the code of nerds and more specifically, our special, secret code that we share with one another and our closest friends. Newcomers know that they are not yet part of the club because they haven’t been invited into our in-jokes.
I don’t think that Nate and I are particularly alone in this. Many couples have their shared jokes and weird quirks known only to each other. However, Nate and I have acknowledged them and made something of a study of them. Occasionally when we realize we’ve made one of those jokes or had a conversation that code breakers would be scratching their heads over as seemingly no actual information was conveyed, one or the other of us will stop, look at the other, and say, “I love you,” which in itself is code for, “We have just successfully had a meaningful conversation that would have been impossible if we did not think in some fundamentally similar ways and had the shared context to understand one another. And that’s pretty fucking awesome.”