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Um.

Phatic expressions are common, but I found myself the other day thinking that we have phatic interactions — long conversations that are the linguistic equivalent of Hello, and even, whispered the least social parts of my brain, phatic social relationships.

The concept isn't necessarily a disparaging one; like any protocolar (even in the Computer Science meaning of it) activity, it's absolutely necessary, and like any non-representational activity, it can also be profoundly creative. The minor, meaningless courtesies of strangers interacting briefly for the first and last time in their lives can be very meaningful indeed, both for good and for ill.

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cass, can you not
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