There is a stratospheric cloud of volcanic origin which is affecting our weather.

"Poltergeist" is a diffuse grab bag of horrors.

The Jones Department Store is about to have a terrific warehouse sale.

There is hanky-panky going on between John Green of data processing and Emily Doe of sales.

Hailstones as big as golf balls fell in one of the suburbs (and even bigger ones are common in Texas).

Golf balls are bigger in this country than in Britain.

People are bigger in this country than in Britain.

One of our male security guards crochets.

There were hordes of people at the Jones warehouse sale, but very few good buys.

The above opinion is nonsense; there were fantastic bargains in housewares.

Ruth Warren is pregnant/looks pregnant/may be pregnant.

There is not any hanky-panky going on between John Green and Emily Doe.

Three of our department's projects are behind schedule.

So is the end of the world.

The names above have been changed to protect the guilty. And so have most of the statements, but they do reflect the sort of tidbits that I've gleaned at some recent meetings.

There are plenty of meetings, of course, that don't wander into such conversational byways. The presence of top brass means a low quotient of chitchat. And, as a general rule, the more a meeting matters, the less everyone chatters.

The kind of meeting that is most likely to get off the agenda and off the wall is an informational one where no decisions have to be made . . . particularly if everyone there is from the same department. People are less up tight, and their tongues can get downright loose.

I find that my own reaction to this kind of occasion is a barometer of my state of mind. Sometimes I silently applaud the person who growls periodically, "Let's get back to business. I've got work to do." Sometimes I'm placid but think some of the discursions are amusingly strange.

On the other hand, have you heard what's going on in accounting?