FEELING INTELLECTUAL? If yes proceed. If no click anyway.
Language is a given developmental upgrade. How we say something, and what we say may seem plain and straight forward on the surface, but never one to settle for initial appearances, I like to look into the nuances of words and phrases. Semantics is a branch of linguistics associated with deciphering words in a logical sense in an effort to find additional meaning beyond the obvious. So let’s look through the microscope at common phrases:
Just be yourself – A classic, a staple of adults and younger people who have heard the phrase repeated. Often used in situations to reassure someone in order to alleviate anxiety.
Practical use? Zero. If someone is in need of reassurance, being told to be who they are at that moment in time and who they always have been, is like saying, ‘You’re anxious. Now listen, be exactly that same amount of anxious.’ Oh wait, that’s a given as we cannot literally change our minds.
There are plenty of people worse off – Usually said in response to situational complaints. The aim being to make someone feel better about said situation.
Practical use? None. As hollow as the throwaway ‘Everything will be ok’. Knowing there are people hungrier, more tired, more depressed etc is entirely relative and has no bearing on the situation someone is experiencing. Knowing someone is worse off does not affect the situation, because even if you know of someone who really is in a worse position in life, there is no positive to take from that. Ultimately, the mindset the phrase poses is that as long as someone is doing worse than you are, even if you are doing terribly, then you ought to feel better about someones ill fortune in order to boost your mental state.
You wouldn’t understand – Often used flippantly (my yearly adverb, omg!) in response to a back and forth on any number of subjects.
Practical use? Little. Initially, if nothing else, the phrase is presumptuous. If someone says we wouldn’t understand they are questioning our empathy and ability to place ourselves in their position. Youngsters may not have the worldly experience to comprehend issues beyond their years that much is true, however, they are very good at grasping a concept if it is explained. Amongst adults too, the phrase isolates the speaker and commits the sin of not communicating further in order to help someone understand what it is they are saying (or not saying). Even if the breakdown is in discussing why particle physics really is great, ‘You wouldn’t understand’, is a bullshit phrase that helps nobody, and usually someone who says it has something they are not revealing but could be.
Well, I’m not quite sure where that came from. I haven’t even read the first twenty pages (and quit) of a Noam Chomsky book, or deciphered the rhetoric of speeches by George Bush Jr vs Osama Bin Laden for a good eight years. For what it’s worth I believe semantics play a big part in writing fiction allowing us to reveal and express characters emotional states and stages of a story, so I feel I have at least kept this post vaguely writing related. Short story due tomorrow perhaps.
Any phrases you have been exposed to that make zero actual sense? I’d love to hear them.