'Actually', the favourite

Last Updated 30 March 2014, 17:00 IST

By prefixing the word ‘actually’, one feels he swears that he is telling the truth.
Selfie that stands for a self-portrait photograph taken with the camera phone may be the word of the year 2013, but my personal vote for an all time favourite would be ‘actually.’

Actually, most Indians who can manage a smattering of conversational  English cannot speak without using the adverb ‘actually’ especially before starting a sentence. Many actually use frequently in written English.

I pointed this out to my fellow panelist at the time of an interview of candidates due for promotion to assess the skills, communication among other things, acquired to climb the corporate ladder. The panelist said he did not quite apply his mind on this aspect but in any case would watch as the interview progressed. After the next candidate trooped in nervously and sat before us, I fired my questions.

“Mr Anand, what are your qualifications?” “Actually, I am an M Com. I am also doing my MBA, Sir.”

“You did your M Com in English medium?” “No Sir, actually in Bengali medium.”

“When do you think you will complete your MBA?” “Sir, actually I would have completed it one year back. But due to work load the company did not sanction my leave whenever I applied. But I am happy I have been promised a month’s leave this summer, actually in May, Sir.”

The two of us facing the candidate exchanged glances. The interview went on. We did not keep a score of total ‘actually’ he used, but considering the fact that Anand was not the only votary of the word and the other candidates freely used it, I was sure that my fellow panelist was actually convinced with my observation.

Why people have an obsession with that word? Perhaps there is an inherent fear that unless a stress is made people may not accept you as telling the truth even while making simple statements of facts like your age, place of stay, marital status and such. By prefixing the word ‘actually’, one feels he swears he is telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and that there are no traces of falsehood in the statement made.

Though the expression ‘in fact’ can also be fittingly used in place of ‘actually’, it is not very much in vogue, may be due to an acquired conversational style copied from other votaries of ‘actually’. And so ‘actually’ appears handy to begin any sentence while having starting trouble in conversational English - which is ‘actually’ true.

(Published 30 March 2014, 17:00 IST)

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