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Words - I'm just sayin'...

Once upon a time – and there probably was a ‘once upon a time’ those very words were used for the very first time – well, once upon a time, if someone started a spoken or written sentence with ‘I don’t mean to be offensive, but…’, it was time to duck. Or run. Or find a really, really big writ. With nails in. Because, quite simply, they were going to be.


Once upon a time – and there really, really was a time when nobody had ever said that before – People might begin a conversation, a response to a comment, even an email (well, after the rock tablet carving industry had gone out of business because people had decided that being able to say things really, really quickly without any need to actually think about what they were saying before, um, saying it, was actually a Good Thing™) with ‘With all due respect’. Which was, again, a good time to take a good look at the whole duck-run-get-a-lawyer thing. Because the odds were they were about to say something that had heard of respect, due or otherwise, and decided it was having nothing to do with it.

But, and here’s the ‘but’ – at least they gave you advance warning. About the incoming offense. Or lack of respect. Or need for a big stick. With nails in.

The thing about both of them was that, in some fashion, the ‘I don’t mean to be offensive’ or the ‘with all due respect’ were in fact magic phrases. They meant something like ‘actually, I am. Going to be, I mean. Or I don’t. Like, don’t respect. But, see, I said the magic words. So you can’t. Be offended, that is. Or think I’m being disrespectful.’

See? Magic words. But at least they gave you advance warning. Time to duck. Or run. Or call a lawyer. With a writ. With nails in.

Of course, the thing with language is, it evolves. It changes. And that whole ‘advance warning’ thing is, it must be said (though with a whole bucket load of ‘I don’t mean to be offensive’-s, and ‘with all due respect’-s) for wimps.

The current get-out-of-jail free card seems to be ‘I’m just sayin’’. Or, were one to be pedantic, ‘saying’. But you don’t say it ahead of whatever you’re ‘just sayin’’. After all, it might give the person you’re talking to time to duck. Or run. Or get a new bag of nails to start a writ.

Or even to ignore you.

You say it after. After the other stuff. The stuff for which you still want the magic words.

Because, after all, you were 'just sayin’', right? You weren’t deliberately trying to be offensive. To lack respect. To attack.

No. Nobody offended me recently, with or without magic words :-). But when you write (and, most likely, when you read), you tend to see words. A lot. It’s sort of inevitable. And sometimes you see patterns. So what other ones are there? What other ‘magic words’ do people use when they mean the exact opposite of what they’re saying?


Kelly Hashway's picture

Interesting and very true. I'll add "I don't mean to be rude..." because you know that what's coming next will--without a doubt--be rude.

Graeme's picture

An excellent one to add to the list!

There probably is already a list of these somewhere on the Inter-tubes - but I couldn't find one. Mostly because I didn't go looking before I started typing :-).

One of the bigger differences between the others and 'I'm just sayin'...' is that, in general (and in the past), the others at least were placed at the start. To give you time to duck :-). The new one tends to be put _after_ they've said the 'just sayin'', when you're likely already fuming...

Cheryl D's picture

When I think something gonna sting, I will say: "I must be blunt." Not that this relieves me of hurting anyone's feelings, but maybe they know I don't like to hurt their feelings because after all if nobody says what's wrong - "I must be blunt. Your breath is atrocious." - then one will never know that something's wrong or if they suspect something's wrong but can't quite figure out what, they still won't know what's wrong. Unless we paragons point it out.

Graeme's picture

... you're not trying to use 'magic words' to advance absolve you of any impact yours may have, Lady Cheryl. And at least it gives me time to start running - though my waistline reduces the potential benefits of such a head start :-P.

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