There are things we should all stop saying and most of us know exactly what they are. Many of us don’t realize that we’re saying these things and some of us cringe each time we hear them come out of our mouths.
It’s usually a lot easier to detect flaws in other people than in ourselves. We either don’t hear what we’re saying or don’t notice how annoying certain habitual space-fillers can be until we hear them from those around us.
A young lady I knew back in the 70’s once offered me a bowl of pistachios saying, “Want some peanuts?” Staring at the contents of the bowl I told her that they were pistachios not peanuts. She said she knew but thought the word “peanuts” referred to all nuts.
I sensed that this was a woman with whom communication would be difficult. When I told her that what she did was like handing me a bowl of grapes and asking me if I wanted some apples, she looked at me like I was nuts. Peanuts, I assume.
Our language is under assault by those who seem bent on creating their own. The beauty and elegance of the English language is that it is fluid, dynamic and can be used with such precision as to communicate the most complex ideas imaginable. Why would anyone want to kill it?
“Ya know” has been with us for about as long as I can remember. Sometimes it’s “You know what I’m saying” or “You know what I mean.” Some people say it occasionally, some populate sentences with it almost to the exclusion of all other words. Still, it’s just a filler and doesn’t change meaning or syntax. Ditto “ummm.”
Ending a sentence with an adverb or especially a conjunction may seem an unlikely choice, but how do we explain the word “so” at the end of so <used here as an adjective modifier- many sentences?
While we’re on the subject of final words, when did we decide to add “or no” to every question? “Did your doctor check your prostate, or no?” It makes it difficult to answer the question. If you say yes, are you answering in the affirmative to the actual question or the “or no” part? Most often the “or no” should be “or not,” but it’s unnecessary and annoying in either case.
You can get a feel for people’s verbal dexterity when they’re arguing or trying to be convincing. If your main arguments are “So, what, guess what” or “not necessarily”, you need to admit a couple of things to yourself. First, you’re an idiot. Second…..never mind. If being an idiot doesn’t move you to an online crash course in Conversational English, you’re probably beyond help.
“Not necessarily” applies in every case, yet conveys nothing. You can counter every argument, including one that proposes that the sun will rise tomorrow by saying, “not necessarily”.
Wanting always to distance ourselves from our words, we seem to seek out new ways to begin speaking them. For a long time every sentence began with “basically.” My insurance guy began the answer to every question I asked him with that word until I finally had to tell him that he was about to lose my business.
Now we like to start our sentences with “so” and “I mean.” The “so” isn’t so bad, but “I mean” doesn’t really have a place before you’ve even started speaking. It’s supposed to come after you’ve already said something, followed by a clarification of that thought. You know what I mean.
“Like” comes in and out of favor and in creative ways. We sometimes use it to make already ambiguous words or thoughts even more ambiguous. My sister-in-law once asked if John like liked Cindy. Oddly enough, I knew what she meant.
Are you like married? No, I actually AM married!
We also use “like” to create dialogue. So, I’m like, “What are you doing tonight?” And, she’s like, “Why, did you want to do something?” And, I’m like………. It can be very painful to listen to the description of a long conversation relayed in this way.
Saying, “just saying” is a whole other way of distancing one’s self from one’s words. It’s a way of putting something out there and pretending that you didn’t really say it.
Broomhilda’s a big fat pig. I’m just saying.
In the future, just say what you want to say and we’ll all try to keep in mind that you just said it because you will have just said it.
These are but a few of our verbal mish-mashes. I’m sure I have my own and I invite anyone within the sound of my voice to mention them to me so that I can work to eliminate them.
In the mean time, those of you who are the worst offenders should get busy learning how to communicate in this lovely language we call English. I’m just saying.
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