Aaronow: Yes. I mean are you actually talking about this, or are we just.

Moss: No, we're just.

Aaronow: We're just "talking" about it.

Moss: We're just speaking about it. (Pause.) As an idea.

Aaronow: As an idea.

Moss: Yes.

Aaronow: We're not actually talking about it. Moss: No.

Aaronow: Talking about it as a.


Aaronow: As a robbery.

Moss: As a "robbery"?! No.

Aaronow:Well. Well.


Aaronow: So all this, um, you didn't, actually, you didn't actually go talk to Graff.

Moss: Not actually, no. (Pause.)

Aaronow: You didn't?

Moss: No. Not actually.

Aaronow: Did you?

Moss: What did I say?

Aaronow: What did you say?

Moss: Yes. (Pause.) I said, "Not actually." The fuck you care, George? We're just talking.

Aaronow: We are?

Moss: Yes. (Pause.)

Aaronow: Because, because, you know, it's a crime.

Moss: That's right. It's a crime. It is a crime. It's also very safe.

Aaronow: You're actually talking about this?

Moss: That's right. (Pause.)

This exchange in Act One, scene two, is a clear example of how slippery the definitions of words can become in the salesmen's hands. The ability to sell is entirely dependent on the ability to manipulate words to mean what the salesman wants them to mean—or what the customer wants them to mean—at any given moment. It is, then, particularly amusing that the word that is scrutinized here is "talk"—the very definition of what the salesmen do for a living.

Moss has in fact planned the robbery that they are discussing, but he does not want to admit this fact to Aaronow until he can be confident that Aaronow will agree to conspire with him. He thus evades Aaronow's question about whether or not they are "talking" about the crime (discussing it seriously with the eventual goal of carrying it out) by countering that they are just "talking" (having an intellectual, theoretical discussion) about it. The word is the same but the meanings are different, which generates confusion and makes it very difficult for Aaronow to pin Moss down. The structure of this conversation almost resembles Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?" routine: just when Aaronow thinks he knows what Moss is saying, Moss switches the definitions of his words or throws Aaronow's questions back at him. At the end of this exchange, when Aaronow gets Moss to concede that he is in fact seriously "talking" about the crime, the verbal chase that precedes this admission seems all the more humorous and useless. Moss has not accomplished much with his evasion, but he has at least remained in control of the dialogue.