Notes from the Small Pond...What you gotta understand is...
By: Parnell Thill, Pine Journal
I can’t stand when people start out a sentence with any of the following prefixes:
- “Look,” followed by an appropriately pregnant pause designed to give listeners the proper time to prepare themselves for what is certain to be an incredibly brilliant insight, for which, listeners should be implicitly grateful. After all, we idiot-receivers of the soon-to-be-gotten information are about to be forever blessed by the coming wisdom. Hence, we should: Look...
As in: “Look...the reason those people in that opposing political party are so shrill on this issue is that they clearly don’t understand the mindset of the American people...Look...I do.”
- “Listen...” Same thing. Annoying. Patronizing. Condescending. Lame.
- “What you have to understand is...” The minute I hear that phrase, the speaker has lost me. I’m done listening. I don’t care if it’s Tom Jefferson, Jim Morrison, Ernest Hemingway, Beethoven or any one of the million other people with whom I’d give any single one of my paired appendages to converse. Why must we be told what we have to understand? Are we so dim as to have to be reminded that what the speaker is about to impart is worth understanding? If it weren’t, would it be worth uttering in the first place? The next time you hear someone start out a sentence with, “What you gotta understand is...” be encouraged to interrupt with: “What you have to say is...” and then fill in the blank with whatever comes to mind...see how they like being dictated to about how to prioritize their side of the conversation.
- “As a matter of fact...” again, this idiom is inherently patronizing. The presumption is that the listener must be reminded that what is about to be said is, indeed, a matter of fact. Isn’t the vast majority of our back-and-forth, linguistic intercourse a matter of fact? Isn’t it the default disposition of our conversation? Don’t misunderstand me. I get it that we very rarely speak the truth, the whole truth and nuthin’ but the truth, even in the rare cases we’re trying to do so.
But, most of us, unless we’re pathological or worse, converse in coarsely defined, admittedly subjective versions of the truth (as opposed to TRUTH, which is entirely distinct from “fact.”) Let’s not dilute our communication by qualifying what we say “as a matter of fact.” Let’s presume that, generally speaking, our conversations are mostly earnest.
As a matter of fact, I think it would be a helluva lot more helpful and instructive if, when conversing or pontificating, speakers would pre-warn us when things are a matter of B.S.
“Look, as a matter of B.S., what you have to understand is, that everything I’m about to say is so entirely overwhelmed with agenda and obfuscation and demagoguery that you might as well not listen, since I’m mostly speaking for my own benefit anyway.”
...meanwhile, brace yourself for a steady diet of “Look,” “Listen,” “What you have to understand is,” and “As a matter of fact,” from now straight through Nov. 6.