On occasion I have been known to use the expression “back in the day”.
I think that “back in the day” is a perfectly reasonable expression. It evokes a feeling of an undefined time in the past when you were at your prime, you were more carefree, you partied harder, suffered less and the sun always shone. Back in the day were the good times.
Surely no rational person could have a problem with such a useful and innocuous expression as ‘back in the day’.
Well, apparently people can have a problem with it: my friend Kate for one. If you dare to utter the phrase within her earshot she will go off on one.
“Back in what day?” she will rant; “what does that even mean?”
She is clearly unhinged; no sensible person would get so worked up by an expression.
But then, on reflection, I noticed that I get equally (if not as vociferously) annoyed by a multitude of expressions and platitudes frequently trotted out by people who, presumably, also think they are perfectly useful and innocuous. Here are a few prime examples of expressions that raise my hackles:
“I’m not being funny, but…”
This expression generally precedes something that is either critical (in a nonchalantly non-constructive manner), abusive or just downright rude. Or, almost as bad, I once worked with a bloke who trotted out this pointless expression as a prefix to just about every sentence no matter how pointless or innocuous. In any event it is unlikely to be mistaken for something that is funny.
A variation on the theme is the “I’m sorry but…”, which means I am going to say something which I know to be offensive and for which I am not in the slightest bit sorry, but now that I have said sorry it would be churlish of you to make a fuss.
“Do you know what I mean”
Use of this expression can be forgiven if the speaker has just used some complex form of higher maths to make their point, or if they have just explained the critical element of how to diffuse the bomb that you are locked in a room with, but this is rarely the case.
No, it is much more common for this pointless waste of breath to come at the end of a very simple sentence such as “if it rains we might get wet, do you know what I mean?”
No, I don’t know what you mean; please expound on your thesis further as I think you’ve gone a bit over my head there.
An equally irritating variation on this theme is “if that makes sense”
“In any way, shape or form”
This is just irritating because it is pointless: it adds nothing to whatever you are saying. If you tell me categorically that you don’t like something, I’ll assume that you find all of its ways, shapes and forms to be equally disagreeable without the need for additional clarification. If you say categorically that you are not going to do something, I am not going to start exploring whether there are any ways, shapes or forms which might prove an exception – or if I am I will do it anyway.
It may be that the expression once served a purpose to add emphasis, but it has become so platitudinous that any such emphasis is now lost. In most cases it now seems to be used to add self-importance to the speaker, in which it also fails miserably.
“Is it just me or…”
If used as a genuine query this should mean “am I the only one who thinks this particular thing?” and can be a good test of your comprehension, or a useful check of whether your unusual point of view has any merit. For instance “Is it just me, or do you also think that what Brian Cox just said indicates that he believes little green men live on Mars?”
What it is far more frequently used for, however, is to ask “am I the only one who realises this self-evident truth?” or, even worse, “am I the only one who thinks this bigoted, half-baked thought which I believe to be a self-evident truth?” For instance: “Is it just me, or should women know their place and spend more time doing the washing up?”
In that second example, which uses the more usual syntax for the expression, omitting the ‘do you also think’, you will notice that it doesn’t even really make grammatical sense. In the above example the correct response should be “yes, it is just you who should know your place and spend more time doing the washing up.”
I can’t put my finger on when it started, but of late no politician, whilst being interviewed, can start a sentence without the prefix “Look…”
This annoyance manifests itself as follows.
Interviewer: “So tell me Mr Politician, do you think it is appropriate that you lied to your constituents, slept with your neighbour’s wife and embezzled a gazzallion pounds from party funds?”
Mr Politician: “Well, look; the fact is that sometimes things happen and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes people may think that things happen even if they conceivable might not, or possibly never will, or just maybe could have happened at some time in the past. Or the future. Or right now. But what I think is really important is that….
They are all doing it: is there some political media coach out there advising them to do it? What is its purpose supposed to be? Maybe it is intended to underline the earnestness of what they are saying, or perhaps it is supposed to sound down to earth. Whatever it is, it fails.
Other annoying expressions confined mainly to politicians is “let’s be quite clear on this” and “let me be perfectly honest”, neither of which are often associated with either clarity or honesty.
The internet has been with us for quite a while now and we are all used to the URLs that constantly bombard us; many of these URLs end with the suffix ‘.com’. That is, of course, all fine and perfectly acceptable. However, using the suffix dot com in spoken conversation, when you are not reciting an actual web address, is not.
I think the rot set in here with Lastminute.com and Confused.com; once they became well known nothing was just in time any more, it was last minute dot com. You could no longer be simply confused; you had to be confused dot com. But it didn’t end there: now people get angry dot com, or hungry dot com, or I’vehadenoughofallthisdotcomnonsense dot com.
And whilst we are on the subject, hashtags are irritating enough when over-used on social media, they should not, under any circumstance, be used in spoken conversation. Hashtag justsayin’.
I’m sure there are many more such examples if I put my mind to it, but I suspect that I have already alienated just about everyone on the planet as they use and cherish at least one of these expressions. Besides, I’m starting to sound like a grumpy old man – I don’t know what has happened to me, I never used to let things like this wind me up back in the day.