Deftly guessing at meaning

For anyone who’s ever pretended they know what they’re talking about (i.e everyone, at some point in their lives), this passage from James Joyce’s Dubliners, which I’m currently reading, will feel really familiar:

The car ran on merrily with its cargo of hilarious youth. The two cousins sat on the front seat; Jimmy and his Hungarian friend sat behind. Decidedly Villona was in excellent spirits; he kept up a deep bass hum of melody for miles of the road. The Frenchmen flung their laughter and light words over their shoulders and often Jimmy had to strain forward to catch the quick phrase. This was not altogether pleasant for him, as he had nearly always to make a deft guess at the meaning and shout back a suitable answer in the face of a high wind. Besides, Villona’s humming would confuse anybody; the noise of the car, too.

It often happens that if you prepare a response to something you’re only partially sure of, your response takes on a tone that it wouldn’t if you hadn’t misheard. This can go either rather well, or terribly wrong. And yet, in most cases, some response is better than no response at all. The high risk high reward strategy.

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