How we are able to talk — the surprisingly effortless channeling of thoughts into words made available for public consumption — is a startling mystery. The next time you find yourself jabbering, see if you can direct some unemployed part of your mind toward observing just how it is you know what word to put next. Within seven seconds you will find yourself tongue-tied and bewildered as to how you do it. Words come to us, and usually we, like everyone else, do not know exactly what’s coming until we hear it from our own mouths.
One likely theory is that we have a bunch of monkeys in our treehouse whose job it is to come up with stuff for us to say. They’re a creative bunch and not always keen on relevancy, so there must be some other unit — a panel of straight-faced orangutans, perhaps — that rejects the craziest proposals put forth by the monkeys and shapes what isn’t rejected into something that, for the most part, is not an unreasonable thing to say. The monkeys are enthusiastic but clueless, so they propose a wild array of sayable things; the orangutans tend to be more sensitive to local conditions, and take up the proposals that seem likely to accomplish whatever it is we think we might want to accomplish by making our noises. (Lack of sleep, alcohol, and the presence of someone you’d like to impress all skew the orangutans’ judgment, as is well known.)