When was the last time you could say, “A chimpanzee is a fruit that cries out every time I offer it an octopus,” and not attract weird looks from people around you? On the other hand, when did you expect people to bang their hands against tables in vehement protest the moment you say can’t or didn’t, as if such words were tabooed? If you think this is just random blabber, you haven’t been in a JAM.
Just a Minute or JAM is perhaps the most boisterous event that ELS conducts. With a minute that sometimes lasts longer than half an hour, it demands you to be on your toes at every point in time. Those who have played JAM long enough to accumulate words of wisdom will tell you that JAM is not so much about speaking fluently as spotting the errors that others make. In other words, you could consider yourself lean hungry opportunists who thrive on the wrongdoings of your fellow participants.
Right, so what are these errors anyway? In a JAM, you are supposed to speak Queen’s English. If you don’t, you will fetch points for the person who points out your error first. Is that it? Do you just have to curb your natural instincts to swear or blurt out slang? Not quite. You also can’t hesitate or slur or stop or speak at an unnatural pace. You must talk mechanically, like a robot that talks mechanically (which makes it a useless analogy). In other words, you are not supposed to dramatize or intonate like a normal human who talks with voice modulations and gestures, which is an even more useless comparison. Ah well, I hope you get the idea. There are also other errors like paraphrasing but those involve positioning of clauses or objects or some such stuff that is too boring to explain here. Anyway, the one thing that is easy enough to explain is the repetition/plagiarism error which bars you from repeating things said by you or others too many times. Sometimes the JAM-master may also introduce certain special rules for his/her sadistic pleasure. Those are just whimsical (for instance, once a JAM-master asked everyone to end the second sentence of his/her speech with the phrase ‘past a chequered flag’).
So how do you win this slugfest? You get points for the length of time you speak before someone gets offended by the impurities in your speech and you also get points for pointing out those faults. This is what JAM is all about. But before we wrap up, here are some more words of wisdom – memorizing a paragraph about the properties of chlorophyll might help but it only goes so far in a professional JAM, which is just like a professional foosball championship.