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Thursday, 29 July 2010

Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you are going to be rude, disrespectful, or offensive, go ahead and say it.

Of course, one doesn’t actually need permission. At the very least, avoid obfuscation. Because you’re not really fooling anyone.

Remember, attempting to be less offensive is still being offensive. I offer a few examples of doublespeak to illustrate.

“To be honest…”
Translation: This opener might lead one to believe that the speaker is about to bare his or her soul opposed to other conversations when the speaker is not being as honest as one might believe. Causing the listener to wonder if he or she has been lied to in all previous discussions. It also gives the impression that the listener is about to be privy to some confidential information as in “To be honest,” as the listener leans in with anticipation, “I truly believe that you just don’t have an accurate sense of reality.”

“With all due respect…”
Translation: It’s the “all due” that gives it away. When you really respect someone, you speak in a respectful manner. It’s when you actually have little to no respect that you’ll rely on this as in “I don’t respect you in the slightest, but need to throw a bone in your direction before I slam you.”

“You’re very [insert backhanded compliment of your choice], BUT…”
Translation: The more I build you up with a perceived compliment, the harder you’ll fall when I follow up with an insult. As in “you’re a very smart person…but you don’t have the slightest clue what you are doing and now I am going to tell you how to do that for which you were hired.”

“Don’t get me wrong…”
Translation: Serving as a structural buffer, this phrase almost ALWAYS occupies the space between what might be (correctly)perceived as an insult and clause meant to be either neutral or a compliment. As in “Everyone else thinks your haircut is just awful; don’t get me wrong, I think it is very well-suited for your facial structure.”

Yes, Miss Scarlett, tomorrow is another day.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Friday, 30 July 2010 6:35 am

    I mostly agree with you, but I’d like to say that

    1) I love the phrase “with all due respect” because it only gives the person the amount of respect due him or her.

    2) I think that “to be honest” is a nice way of saying, “brace yourself because I’m about to say something you don’t like.” I avoid this by asking if they want me to be honest. This way, they have a choice.

  2. Friday, 30 July 2010 7:40 am

    In a funny bit about this, I once heard a colleague who is from the South give a whole diatribe about “bless her/his heart” – and what it really means – and how much it means that the person is really just screwing up big time. Like, “He always wears those Hawaiian shirts, bless his heart.” or “She really thinks that haircut looks good, bless her heart.” This colleague was much funnier than I am (trust me) but I can’t ever hear anyone say that phrase without a little internal giggle at how intentionally “doublespeak” it is.

    Most of these on your list are, sadly, not intended as doublespeak. Don’t you think that people really think they’re being honest, giving respect, not being wrong, etc – as in, I think they just. don’t. get. it. 🙂

  3. Friday, 30 July 2010 10:19 am

    To be honest I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to comment because I wasn’t sure if I could take this seriously. And with all due respect you are a rabbi and I am not, so it is probably important for me to try to be respectful.

    Not just because you are a rabbi or a mother but because you are a person. I should add that I have been called a mother so many times I might actually be one- or maybe they meant something else when they called me that.

    Maybe I should ask because it is important to know these things. You’re probably rolling your eyes at this and wondering why I must do this. Don’t get me wrong, I really do think of these things but…. 😉

  4. Friday, 30 July 2010 11:33 am

    Phyllis, I have to disagree. There is no reason to say “With all due respect” unless you are about to say something disrespectful. Well, that isn’t totally true. It might be okay to say, “With all due respect, I have to disagree.” Then state your disagreement (without using the phrase “Don’t get me wrong.”)

    Regarding “bless her heart,” I will leave it to the Rivster to tell you the only bhh story I know because it was something that someone said to her. It is so southern, though, I have to love it.

    There needs to be a category for all these phrases. Like, these are the “Watch Out!” phrases because right after them, someone is going to say something terrible. It might be a little terrible or it might be a lot terrible, but it won’t be good.

    On a related note, I highly dislike people saying IMHO. If you are giving me your opinion, chances are that you aren’t H and you don’t think you are H, so just drop it.

  5. Friday, 30 July 2010 12:11 pm

    My favorite is when people precursor something with “I’m not a racist, but …”

  6. Jockbro permalink
    Friday, 30 July 2010 3:08 pm

    There is a really funny Curb Your Enthusiasm episode from last season about the total idiocy of the expression “having said that…”

    As a recent transplant to the south (well, Texas) I’m just beginning to learn the appropriate usages of BHH and it comes in so handy!


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