A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Friday, June 08, 2007

Professional Coughers

Last weekend, I attended a seminar in advanced marketing techniques for voice professionals. These are the people who do voice overs for commercials, narration, etc. The sessions were fun and interesting, but they helped revive my thinking about coughing professionally for fun and profit. Yes, you read that correctly: coughing professionally!

This is an idea that I have contemplated for decades.

The human cough is one form of communication that has not been exploited to its full potential. I have felt for many years that people who cough and clear their throats are actually conveying a message that normal words cannot describe. As a post nasal drip sufferer for many years, I have thought that there must be some way that these guttural sounds can be put to good use.

For example, we’ve all seen newsreel footage of a court trial from the 1930’s (ala the Lindbergh kidnapping case) in which we might have heard this bit of dialogue:

Prosecutor: Can you identify the person who stepped out of the bushes that night in this courtroom?

Witness: Yes, I can.

(A cough is heard in the background.)

Prosecutor: Let the record show that the witness is pointing to the defendant.

In this example, the cough broke the tension of the moment in the same way that several measures of organ music would rise up in a radio drama. This cough could not have happened by accident! This is why I believe that many people who cough in situations like this should be considered professionals who deserve compensation for their performance. Granted, they may believe they only do this to temporarily relieve a tickle in their throat, but they don’t realize that they are performing a valuable service for society.

The cough could be used on the job as a secret code between coworkers when their boss might be lurking nearby. If memory serves me correctly, this idea was used in an episode of Get Smart.

An even better example could be found in a political speech, when a political operative planted in the audience could transmit audience reaction to the politician even as the candidate delivers their speech.

A polite clearing of the throat could mean: “You’re doing good. Keep to your text.”

A louder throat sound could tell the candidate: “Quicken your pace. We need to get your sound bite across before the evening news.

A loud, raspy cough complete with the hand gesture in front of the mouth could signal: “You’re dying out here! Go to your funny anecdote.”

Repeated coughing, followed by hacking and the sound of a deep intake of snot up into the nasal passages could mean: “I’m dying out here! Call an ambulance for me!”

We are barely scratching the surface about the opportunities available to the professional cougher. Of course it will only be a matter of time before these coughers realize the power they have over public discourse and band together to form their own industry in the communications field. They may even unionize: Professional Cough, Upper Respiratory Congestion, and Phlegm Workers at your service! This is a field that is crying out for more research: here’s a free suggestion for someone looking to do a master’s thesis if I ever heard one.

So, in conclusion, let us cough about ideas, but not wheeze about people. We should always strive to politely clear our throats at a low volume, but not raise our mucus in anger. After all, we are a civilized people who keep our snot to ourselves. Above all, we must remember: “Cough, hack, snort, cough, hworf!”

I think all of us who understand cough language know what I mean.


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