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unique verbal utterance

Like queueing theory, this is a dreadfully serious idea of which I retain only the most frivolous recollection. I think it asserts that when you take circumstances sufficiently into account every verbal utterance is unique.

Everyday routine exchanges, surely, are often at a level that even a linguist's ear could not readily tell apart.

On the other hand ... the notion leapt out of its seventeen-year slumber at the back of my mind the day Annette and I walked up to the station at Annevoie. We turned the corner on to the platform and I heard myself remarking – with, let it be said, perfect truth – "Look, Annette, there is a goat on the window-sill."

A few years after that, I heard the same bell ring when I politely asked someone waiting for the metro at Demey «vous n'auriez pas laissé votre étui au guichet?» Well, how often have you had occasion to enquire "Would you happen to have left your instrument-case at the ticket-window?"

And, most recently, I finished checking my e-mails and remarked to Chris "My musette teacher is stranded in Kuala Lumpur because of the volcano."