WORDS THAT GRATE
I used to have a colleague who loved to use the word ‘basically’. He would start every sentence of his (it seemed) with it, and at the end of his monologue he would end with: ‘You know what I am saying?’ The rest of us would just nod, of course, because whoever has heard of a different response to that sentence? Oh, and he also said ‘like’ a lot, as if he were a blonde high school prom queen.
It got me thinking about the large number of words and phrases that we use in our regular speech that perform no function whatsoever. On the contrary, they get on people’s nerves. For instance, whenever my colleague said ‘basically’, I’d just roll my eyes and make sure I tune out for the rest of the sentence. Other ‘ly’ words like ‘really’ and ‘actually’ fall into the same category.
The words of extremity, ‘always’ and ‘never’ have a way of invoking Murphy’s law. How often has the universe spat at you after you proclaimed that such-and-such would never happen? Also, using these words is plain rude and sends the wrong signals. It’s not without reason why marriage counselors advise all couples never to use these words when describing each other. (Yes, I know what I did there.)
What about words of exaggeration? My brother-in-law has an annoying habit of saying ‘awesome’ when he means to say ‘good’ or ‘all right’. Not only does it make him come across as a smug prick (he isn’t that bad), he now has no word to use when something is really awesome. Like the boy who cried wolf, when he says ‘awesome’ and means it, no one will notice. I told him once that when he means to say ‘good’, perhaps he should just bite the bullet and say ‘good’. He responded by giving me a thumbs-up and saying, ‘Awesome, bro.’
Another word that has no function whatsoever is ‘very’, especially when it’s repeated. Just the other day I saw a news anchor on television asking a guest on her show whether so-and-so is a ‘very, very good thing’. I felt like throwing up on her face.
How nice it would be if we could all let go of these words and become leaner, meaner speakers? But then I may as well wish for a unicorn.