Have you noticed that people often don't say what they really mean? Maybe that's a good thing. We've seen the consequences. Many TV shows and movies have featured characters who have no edit switch between their mouth and their brain. They were either “struck by lighting,” or were born with the condition, like Dr. Sheldon Cooper, the brutally honest scientist in “The Big Bang Theory.”
The rest of us want to be honest, we really do. But instead, we couch our negative remarks with nonsense phrases that are supposed to minimize the damage.
For example, It's a safe bet that when someone says to you, "With all due respect..." something disrespectful is on the way. As in, “With all due respect, that shirt you're wearing went out of style around the time Donny Osmond's voice changed.” Hold on, didn't you say I was due for some respect? Where did it go? And hasn't Donny been through enough?
Same goes for “no offense.” If you are to take that literally, that means you could not possibly be offended. But when you hear those two words, buckle up. There's a verbal storm coming. “Hey uh, no offense, but your breath could knock a buzzard off a garbage truck.” Well, thank you! And how could I possibly be offended by that?
Here's another one. “I'm not gonna lie to you.” Am I supposed to be grateful that you're telling me the truth? Much like, “I gotta be honest with you.” Now there's a great dinner guest. “Hey, I'm not gonna lie to ya, you make great potato salad. And I gotta be honest, that's the best dessert I've ever had.”
Just think what would happen if they truly followed up on their promise. “Hey, I'm not gonna lie to ya. That odor coming from the bathroom? It's all me.” Or, “I gotta be honest. Clementine and I have a good marriage, but your wife Thelmalina was my first choice. I'm just sayin'”
Or there's that dear friend who leads into a zinger with the golden words, “Don't take this the wrong way.” I'm pretty sure how I'm going to take it. “Hey Dave, don't take this the wrong way, but have you considered liposuction to lose a couple of those chins?” Gee, I'm so glad you told me not to take it the wrong way. If you hadn't warned me in advance, I might have thought it was an insult, instead of the positive reinforcement you surely intended.
Speaking of real friends, who else would say this to you: “I know you're busy, but...” Immediately, we have a problem here. You have acknowledged that I'm busy. You see me pulling a tooth, climbing a ladder, or delivering a baby. Yet, that doesn't keep you from saying, “Hey, I can see you're busy, but really, all I need is change for a twenty. I can wait a little. By the way, I'd prefer a ten and two fives, okay?”
One of more recent vintage is “I feel your pain,” or the condensed version, “I feel ya, man.” Let's say you've had a rough few weeks. Your ol' pal Murgatroyd saunters over and says, “How's it going?” You open up. “Gosh, where do I begin? I lost my job, my wife had a wreck, my back is shot, my dog left me, and termites have invaded my house.” Your friend nods knowingly. “I feel your pain, Bro.” Um, no you don't.
In an effort to end the conversation, you politely say, “Well, I guess I'd better get busy and find another job, to keep the bill collectors away.” He responds, “I know that's right!” while hovering nearby. “And it's easier to do that,” you say, “without any distractions.” “I heard that,” he says. Well, you must not have, because you're still here!
Do you have friends who question your ability to understand and comprehend the English language? I sure do. They'll prattle on for ten minutes, and wrap it up with, “Do you know what I'm sayin'?” Why yes, I'm fluent in English, so I know exactly what you're saying.
But it doesn't end there. After nodding your head to acknowledge your grasp of the spoken word, they'll move on to Part 2 of their fascinating tale, with a big finish: “Does that make sense?” To borrow one of my forbidden phrases, I gotta be honest. If you have to ask people if you're making sense, you may want to seek medical attention.
Hopefully, this column will help us avoid these annoying phrases. Perhaps you will share it with others, and together we will prevail. Because all in all, at the end of the day, really and truly, it is what it is. No offense.
David Carroll, a Chattanooga news anchor, is the author of “Volunteer Bama Dawg,” available on his website, ChattanoogaRadioTV.com. You may contact him at email@example.com, or 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405.