It’s just one sentence, yet the different meanings it takes on when enunciated are extreme.
It all boils down to a tiny tinge of inflection; but when the inflection is shifted over just one word and spoken out loud, the context of the sentence changes cataclysmically.
Since I’m not speaking out loud here, I’ll let the elements of, CAPITALIZATION, italicization, boldness and even colour clarify all this for you. Here’s the sentence in its raw form:
You’re 20 years old...what do you know?
When I was of the age bracket, it was said this way, somewhat derisively (I guess you can speak it out loud for full effect):
You’re 20 years old...what do YOU know?
In other words...who the hell are you to have an opinion? You’re still a pisher. Shut up and learn something. I have socks older than you. Stop bothering me.
Indeed, these were all actually spouted verbatim at me, delivered with squinty eyes and an upturned nose...despite the fact that when I was 20, I was in a management and editorial position at a newspaper, while completing my business degree at McGill. Little respect from “the man.” We know everything, you know nothing...but uh, give it a few years, and you’ll be in our position.
So I gave it a few years. Cut to 2017. Now the sentence goes:
You’re 20 years old...what do you KNOW?
The eyes aren’t squinting anymore. They are wide to the point of popping, in a near desperate search for some street relevance, some insight into social media worlds and magic technological kingdoms that “the man” has been shut out of. You know everything, we know nothing...but please, please give us a taste, a few insights and uh, maybe I can extricate myself from the prone position.
Now that I’m running a tech biz called Play The Future, I see this attitude shift everywhere. From conferences to conference rooms. A most phenomenal flipping of the funnel of wisdom. 20 is indeed the new 50 (especially at Play The Future, where one-third of our staff are 20 somethings).
To those who can accept this seismic swing of influence, there’s a lot of opportunity to make things great and make great things. To those who can’t, welcome to irrelevance, obscurity and bitterness.
I guess I chose the wrong time to be 20.
But at least I’m smart enough to act accordingly now that I’m on the other side ;)