Chapter 28

The piece below is a copy of a note handed to us by a lady who does not wish her name or address to be published. Editor

It’s, You Know, Sort Of Tautological

Assiduous as I am in trying to keep abreast of trends, I consider it one of my self-imposed duties to listen to radio broadcasts featuring the chattering classes. I used to get some nourishment from this pastime, but have noticed lately that the stimulus level is falling. Why? I think the reason is that I find myself paying more attention to presentation than to content. I am increasingly distracted by the frequent use of pleonasms and fashionable words and phrases. Instead of concentrating on the doubtless worthy thoughts put forward, I dwell ever more on the ways they are expressed. Consumed by the fear that this near-obsession might cause me to miss something important, I decided to try to purge myself of it by devoting a week to ignoring substance and paying attention to speech only.

The first thing that struck me was that if the words ‘incredible’ and ‘incredibly’ were to be expunged from the vocabularies of the professional talkers, nothing would be lost, and arguably not much left – joke! I heard of things that were ‘incredibly interesting’, ‘incredibly unique’ and ‘incredibly authentic’, so fell to wondering why, if everything is unbelievable, we need to consider accepting anything we hear or read.

Next, I noted the number of times that people would ‘never, ever’ do or say this, that or the other. There were twenty-three examples of this in the broadcasts I heard. If one would never do or say something, why does the ‘ever’ keep popping up? Then I was struck by the ‘you know’ and ‘sort of’ syndromes. In one splendid example, I timed a woman who was particularly addicted to the former. In two short bursts of speech, totalling three minutes and twenty-odd seconds, she said it thirty-seven times, which must make her a championship contender. Next in line was a man who racked up twenty-four ‘you knows’ in two minutes and fifty-five seconds. I will not dwell on the ‘sort of’ area, as it is too depressing.

The number of ‘and also’ appearances was striking. I lost count after forty-odd doses, but wondered why, if one ‘ands’ something, one must ‘also’ it too. In all of the cases I noted, both words meant ‘in addition to’. Not being an expert in these matters, I may have missed a vital distinction.

I trawled up a nice collection of miscellaneous items. There were three instances of something or other providing a ‘positive benefit’, which caused me to ponder on why anyone might consider a benefit as negative. The same reasoning applied to another gem, ‘negative asset’. I had always thought that the opposite of asset was liability, but perhaps I am out of touch.

There was an impressive number of comments regarding ‘cheap’ or ‘dear’ prices. I was under the impression that prices were high or low, and that the goods or services in question were cheap or dear. Similarly, there were several cases of ‘cold’ or ‘warm’ temperatures. Are they not low or high, the weather being cold or warm? And what about ‘an attempt to try’ to do something? Is an attempt not a try?

Another type of expression used on several occasions concerned times of day. I noted ‘two/three/six a.m. in the morning’ and ‘eleven p.m. at night’. And let me not forget one little beauty delivered by a chap representing a charity. Speaking about the unfortunate victims of a mishap, he said that his organisation had offered them ‘help, aid and assistance’, but did not say which of these methods of support they chose.

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