“What did you say?”
With spring cleaning behind us, it’s time to reexamine the language we use and the real meaning of some of the expressions that have found their way into our vocabulary. Here are 15 words and phrases that deserve to die. Feel free to add your own nominees in the comments selection below and strike a blow for cleaner, direct communication!
“In my humble opinion” (IMHO)
I am about to say something that I don’t want to prove and I don’t want you to criticize, so I have sheltered it with an appeal to humility and I have characterized it as purely personal. If you criticize what I have said, the appeal to IMHO will make it obvious that you are mean-spirited, a boor, or both. After all, it was just my humble opinion.
“Just a gentle reminder…”
By prefacing my directive with the words, “Just a gentle reminder,” I have told you to get off your backside and do what you were asked to do. By being “gentle” I have also placed my directive beyond challenge, insulated myself from criticism, and I have escaped responsibility for pestering you.
I’ve criticized you or I’ve said something outrageous and provocative. That doesn’t mean I am going to take responsibility for it. After all, I was “just sayin’.”
“I get it, as much as a middle class, European American, person of privilege could get it…”
Did I tell you how keenly aware I am of my social location and do you know how I afraid I am of having an opinion? Did I tell you how keenly aware I am of my social location?
“I just want to push back on that…”
What I would like to do is scream bloody murder or call you an idiot. But social convention keeps me from doing that. So I’ll “push back,” instead. Differing is such an ugly business.
“Coexist…” (also found on bumper stickers with a variety of religious symbols)I don’t really don’t know how all these mutually exclusive, metaphysical claims fit together, so let’s coexist. It’s so difficult to think through things.
“I just want to lift up the fact that…”
There is an issue that’s been missed here. But if I say that I would need to take responsibility for about what I am about to say. So, I’m just lifting up a fact. It’s more of an inventory than a point of view.
“I really want to process this…”
I don’t understand what has been said or I don’t agree. In either case, I don’t want you to know that I don’t. So, let’s talk it to death.
“I just wish they could lean into their discomfort…”
I wish they would admit that they are bigots or that they are wrong.
“I want to honor that…”
What I really wish you hadn’t said that, but you did. So, by “honoring” what you have said we can move on and then I will say what really should have been said.
“Have you read the latest (whatever by whomever)?
I don’t have a single opinion of my own. But you’ve just (foolishly) contradicted the views I’ve adopted without reflection from the people who gave me the opinions I do have.
“I want to piggyback on that…”
I haven’t been listening. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to say what I wanted to say. This is my chance.
“I want to bounce an idea off of you…”
I’d like to try this idea out before I take responsibility for it. If you react negatively, remember, I was just bouncing an idea off of you. I didn’t actually have an idea.
“I totally agree…”
I don’t just agree, I totally agree — as in I really, really, really agree — not just a little but a lot. Can’t you see how well we get along?
“I’m sorry, but…”
No, you’re not. The “but” is a dead give away.
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