# Why do we sometimes say the same thing at the same time as the other person?

Asked by Moni (7) December 1st, 2009 from iPhone
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

Coincidence usually…same train of thought at the same time? I mean, if you’re having a conversation with someone you’re bound to be thinking similar thoughts a majority of the time.

deni (22592)

So we can get a free Coke.

absalom (7552)

[whatever absalom said]

absalom (7552)

There is nothing new under the sun.

jrpowell (40429)

Pure statistics dictates that sooner or later you will say the same word as someone else at the same time.

“Why are some people born on the same day?” has the same answer, because there are more people than days to be born, it is a close statistical certainty (probability very close to 1) that with enough people some will be born on the same day.

nisse (1986)

Because sometimes, that’s just the thing there is to say.

Also, what @nisse said.

laureth (27128)

That’s what she…

Oh, what a terrible joke.

aprilsimnel (30671)

That’s what she…

Oh, what a terrible joke.

filmfann (43504)

@nisse i agree, cuz theres more people than english words as well right? So your bound to end up saying the same thing. Also you and the person are talking together (alone or in a gorup) so if your on the same subject the words get narrowed down to whaetver you’re talking about, making the chance higher.

RAWRxRandy (620)

Well. Technically, the analogy isn’t 100% correct as there are more instances of time * words than there are people (we might even want to limit ourselves to people speaking at the same instance). But the factors you point out increase the probability, as well as the fact that some words are more common than others. As time goes to infinity the probability gets closer and closer to 1. Then again there will be probably not be anyone around to speak words at time=infinity.

Without digging deeper in the philosophical issues we can conclude that the longer 2 or more people speak, the probability that they say the same word at the same time increases.

We can also conclude that the initial questioner probably wasn’t looking for a quasi-mathematical argument.

nisse (1986)

As being an arse is one of my favourite pasttimes, here is a calculation on the probability of saying the same word as someone else over time.

Frequency of a common word ‘you’=5% *)
Frequency of approximately the 1000’th most common word ‘upstairs’=0.009% *)

Estimated time you are engaged in conversation/day = 1 hr

Say you interrupt someone by saying a random word.

The probability of him saying ‘you’ at the instance of interruption is 5%,
The probability of you interrupting with ‘you’ is also 5%
so the probability of you saying the same word is 5%*5% = 0.25%,
The same calculation for the word ‘upstairs’ equals = 0.00000081%

Estimated number of times you interrupt someone/hour of conversation = 10 times

So you have 10 chances per hour of conversation of interrupting someone,

This means you have somewhere between 2.5% and 0.0000081% chance of
saying the same word as someone/day.

1 year is 365 days, so the probability of saying ‘you’ at the same time
as someone else during one year is 1—((1–0.025)^365) =~ 99.9%

And the probability of saying ‘upstairs’ at the same time
as someone else during one year is 1—((1–0.000000081)^365) =~ 0.3%

If we increase the time span to 10 years the calculation becomes
1—((1–0.025)^3650) =~ 100% and
1—((1–0.000000081)^3650) =~ 3%

Saying the average person lives 70 years this equals 25550 days, so your chance
of saying one of the 1000 most common words at the same time as someone else during your lifetime is somewhere between 20% and 100%.

As RAWRxRandy and others pointed out, people talking to eachother are prone to be using the same vocabulary, so the true probability is probably in the higher portion of this range.

*) Source: Most common words in TV and movie transcripts:
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Wiktionary:Frequency_lists/TV/2006/1-1000

nisse (1986)

It’s not like people have an equal chance of spouting any random word at any time. If t’were so, to spout the same word at the same time would be truly interesting. However, people generally tend to say words that relate to the conversation at hand. The conversation smooths the paths for words to flow, narrowing it down like a funnel. That’s what I mean by, “that’s just the thing there is to say.”

Example: You walk up to two friends and start a conversation. Say, “Hey, guys, how are you?”

Friend 1: “Fine, thanks.”
Friend 2: “Fine, thanks.”

This is a simplified thought experiment, but of course they were going to say that. That’s what you say when someone asks you how you are, you say, “Fine.” Because you don’t have an equal chance of saying “radiator” or “the rain in Spain” or even “blempglorf.” The number of words to appropriately choose in a given situation is smaller than the number of actual words in that, or any, language.

laureth (27128)

because great minds think alike.

vincentcent (331)

or