Arguments can be “chummy”

Alex Hodges, Campus Carrier Arts & Living Editor

A couple of weeks ago, as I sat with a friend of mine at Swift & Finch, a woman came in with a couple of younger kids that I could only assume to be her children. The little boy with her, presumed to be her son, looked to be about 6 years old, and he was wearing a brightly colored shirt with an image of a shark’s open mouth on it. I had to do a double take when I noticed that the shark on his shirt had a separate and large piece of fabric attached to its mouth that was supposed to be its “tongue.” This immediately engendered profound confusion within me. I pointed out the shirt to my friend and asked her to confirm whether sharks had tongues because, for some time, I thought that they did not.

After some research, we found that sharks have what are called basihyals, which are tongue-like in nature, but are, truthfully, nothing like tongues. They serve no purpose except to a few species of sharks. Basihyals are small thick pieces of cartilage in the bottom of the mouths of sharks and other fish. If you’ve ever read about what makes a tongue what it is, you’ve most likely found that tongues are muscular tissue-covered organs in the mouth. This lead me to think that sharks do not have tongues, since they are structurally different. My friend, however, disagreed.

Shark anatomy is not something I ever thought I would use to segue into a discussion of verbal disputes, but this opportunity was too timely to pass up. This friend and I have a history of getting into useless spats over unimportant matters just for the sake of proving the other to be wrong, and this was one of those spats. I argued that, because the basihyal serves no practical purpose (except for those few sharks), sharks don’t have tongues. She was dead set on calling it a tongue because it was “tongue-like.” I still think she’s wrong.

After the dust stirred up by our verbal wrestling match settled, I began to think about arguments. I tend to think that I dislike arguing, but, after some thought, I realized that I only dislike arguing when it is simply for the sake of being right. Being rash and making hasty generalizations are ineffective ways of arguing. Arguing can be a good way to learn things about disputed topics, or about how communication can be used effectively within a relationship.

The most important aspect of arguing, to me, is thinking first. Having a general knowledge of what to say and how to say it can change the tone of an argument. Take Aristotle’s theory for arguing, for example. The Aristotelian Argument is an organized way to convince an audience that something is true. The steps to follow an Aristotelian Argument are to introduce an issue, present a case, address the opposing view(s), provide proof for the case and then present a conclusion. Unless whomever the case is presented to abhors the use of an Aristotelian Argument, it is much less likely that they will respond without first taking a moment to consider both sides. This can change the atmosphere surrounding arguing to be a friendlier one that encourages healthier thoughts that are more conducive to constructive responses.

Obviously, in most cases, there won’t be the time or consideration to prepare an argument to be a learning experience for all involved parties. For me, it has simply become something to think about. It makes me appreciate a genuine argument, and it helps me to realize when other arguments are pointless. That doesn’t stop me from sternly discussing sharks and their basihyals when I want to have some argumentative fun.

I had an internal argument about whether or not I should find a way to end this with a pun about aquatic life, so I availed myself to this:


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