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The Cone of Silence

By RD Heldenfels Published: May 11, 2006

''The cone of silence has lifted!'' a co-worker said to me this morning. ''Cone of silence'' is shorthand around here for ''Don't talk to me about (a given show) because I have not seen it yet and don't want to spoil the surprise.'' In this case, the cone was protecting ''Gilmore Girls'' and ''Veronica Mars.'' Myself, I'm still in the cone for ''Alias,'' since I have not yet gotten to last night's episode. Given the glut of serialized dramas out there right now (not to mention some serialized comedies), people around here spend a fair amount of time in a cone.

But today, I was thinking that not everyone who drops by here knows where ''the cone of silence'' comes from. For instance, according to the Internet Movie Database, there's an old movie called ''Cone of Silence'' -- but it has nothing to do with the topic here. The term here is taken from the old ''Get Smart'' sitcom, where inept spy Maxwell Smart would insist on using it for very private conversations -- even though it didn't work. (You can find a good, detailed description of ''Get Smart'' and the cone in this entry on research site TV Acres.)

I like the term for several reasons: It describes what I'm trying to achieve, it's a reference to a TV show and -- just like on ''Get Smart'' -- it doesn't always work in life. Try going through a day not talking about a show that almost everyone around you has seen. Of course, given my big mouth and loud voice, I'm also one of the worst cone-breakers around. A little while ago, I spilled a plot element from ''The Amazing Race'' to another co-worker -- even though she was in the cone.

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