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February 10, 2015


I believe the term "Shovel speech" comes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Willow (to Riley): If you hurt her, I will beat you to death with a shovel. A vague disclaimer is nobody's friend. Have fun!

So any uses in "Buffy" fanfiction would be more akin to homages.

(And honestly, it's not the 'shovel' that makes that quote memorable. It's 'A vague disclaimer is nobody's friend')

I've never seen either in real life, but I've always found them kind of awful to encounter in fiction. The former seems to involve condescending paternalistic friends/relatives trying to control a character's life but is played off as charming, and the latter just seems too strange to be real.

I do recall, from decades ago, a friend's new boyfriend coming down to meet her family for the first time. He was a college (light-heavy weight) wrestler. The father (a field geologist) comes to the door in a sleeveless t-shirt. The boyfriend looks at the muscles and turns to his friend as says "I don't ever want him mad at me! He'd break me!"

Now Larry was one of the most mild-mannered guys I've ever known. And I'm sure that he did not even consider trying to intimidate the boyfriend. But the impact....

a friend of mine, when his daughter was first going on car dates, sat her then-boyfriend down and explained to him that the daughter was the most precious thing in the world to him, and he was putting her in the boyfriend's hands for that evening.

so, no shovel, no threats, no intimidation, just communicating the value of the young woman to the boyfriend, from the father's point of view.

it sort of made an ally of the boyfriend. see, we're in this together, now it's over to you, for the evening. please be careful with my girl!

i was, and still am, impressed by that.

then, there was my old man, who, upon finding out that my step-sister's then-husband was beating her up, went and got her and brought her home.

when the then-husband called to try to find my step-sister, my father told him yes, she was there, yes, he could come pick her up, and he would meet him at the door with his shotgun.

then-husband did not show up.

i was impressed by that also, not in exactly the same way, but still.

I've never heard of anyone I know betting on such things, but the Less Wrong crowd is trying to bring back betting on things as a thing people do, so I could believe it's happened among them... :)

in regard to wj's story

There used to be a Sunday morning practice for aikido at my teacher's house (the first floor of his house was built as a dojo). Though it's gotten a lot softer, at that time, the style was pretty hard and my teacher never wears a hakama (the blue or black skirt like thing), just a standard karate outfit, so it's easier to pick up stance. He's built like a tank and he gone through several black belts (the actual belts), cause when you do a Japanese martial art, it calls for a lot of sharp reversals of your center, and a black belt only has black facing and the interior is white, so a long time practitioner often has a belt that is more white than black and frayed.

Anyway, in the middle of Sunday morning practice, a guy comes by to pick up my teacher's daughter for a Sunday drive and it was obvious that he had no idea that the girl's father did martial arts, so to be greeted at the door with that sight was like a silent shovel speech. Which is the best, because if whatever bad outcomes you can describe, the boy can probably think of worse ones.

"a friend of mine, when his daughter was first going on car dates, sat her then-boyfriend down and explained to him that the daughter was the most precious thing in the world to him, and he was putting her in the boyfriend's hands for that evening."

How was the boyfriend going to have the daughter IN his hands AND keep both hands TO himself, would have been my question.

I have a vague sense, having observed these things as a teenager and then as the father of a male teenager, that this "shovel speech" deal is not a one way phenomenon gender-wise.

I seemed to me the mothers in question cast a bit of a gimlet eye toward at least some of the prospective girlfriends of the sons in question as well.

No shovels required when a smile-with-your-mouth-but-not-your-eyes look and a certain frost in the air were readily available.

When I went back home for my parents' 25th wedding anniversary, my younger sister introduced me to her beau of the time. I put a mean glare in my eye and said "So you're the guy who's been sleeping with my sister!"

His eyes got big and scared, then I stuck out my hand for a shake and smiled. My sister slapped my hand lightly, saying, "Oh, David, cut it out" I told him it was a joke, and with his visible relief he and I shook hands.

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