Wacky words

right in the middle

Some words and phrases used these days sound absurd and even funny.
We were at a friend’s place for dinner with some others including an airline pilot who was talking about the exigencies of his job. In about five minutes, he used the words ‘honestly speaking’ at least three times. To be fair, it was just his manner of speaking and his choice of words. I’ve heard several others too often saying, ‘if you want my honest opinion’ or ‘to tell the truth’ and similar phrases.

Even politicians use such words multiple times in their speeches. Of course we believe what they say, so do they have to emphasise how honest they are. I may sound like an old codger or a bit stodgy but I find some words and phrases used these days, absurd even funny and hence unnecessary. Often when I answer the phone, a colleague or friend beams ‘hey’ and then ask ‘what’s up’.  How do I respond? Roll my eyes upwards and say, hey, the ceiling? sky? Or sun? Understandably, they mean to ask what I am up to. Surely, I can’t reveal everything that I’m up to! Sometimes I get a text message asking ‘whaazzup’.

I’m yet to figure out why some people are so fond of the words ‘I mean’. Even a simple question as how was the weekend elicits something like, “I mean it was good, we relaxed. Wish it was longer, I mean, I really need to unwind.” We know what they mean, so why begin every sentence with ‘I mean’.

Another parting phrase that rolls off the tongues of people often is “take care, be good”. Isn’t a simple goodbye enough? We all know to take care of ourselves and we are not going to blindly jump in front of a speeding BMTC bus. It is indeed tedious to hear some words needlessly used.

Take for instance ‘awesome’ which I think can be used to describe something phenomenal or awe-inspiring as nature’s beauty.  But today, it’s an all-purpose adjective used for anything and everything ranging from someone’s looks to a movie to a ride in a car.

Another is ‘absolutely’ that is habitually used to lend emphasis. ‘I am absolutely sure,’ is for me the same as ‘I am sure’. Then, there are words such as, ‘basically’ and ‘personally’ that are used recurrently to start a sentence or even in mid sentence when the words can easily be dispensed with. “Personally, I didn’t like it,” responds a friend when asked about a musical he attended. “Well, personally, it was very educative,” answers another about a book. Of course I know it is their personal opinion.

I’m afraid, all this makes me wonder if people really mean what they say. Are these mere filler words or used to sound bright and impressive or for emphasis which we Indians are famous for. Or have we all become a bit too casual with one another that anything and everything goes.? Writer Arundhati Roy in her book, ‘The God of Small Thing’ said: “That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.” Perhaps, I must agree.

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