Some expressions are best left unsaid

in Voices by

By Jack Sparacino
I’m no nitpicker.  At least when it comes to speaking English, the only language I can handle, and that’s after studying French for a long time.  That said, here are a dozen expressions we might reconsider and maybe even throw overboard (you be the judge).
1. “Allegedly.”  We have a friend who uses this word all the time.  It’s to cover herself in case someone later discovers that what she said wasn’t completely true.  Allegedly.
2. “I was in the neighborhood.”  OK, that’s great, but if you didn’t get to our house on the day you promised to come to do a repair, and you didn’t call to reschedule, your being “in the neighborhood” was nice but didn’t help us much.
3. “To be honest …” Some people say this all the time as an introduction to a sentence.  But do they want to suggest that ordinarily, or if they don’t say it, they are not honest?  Generally, I assume that anyone I’m speaking with is being honest.  But if they keep TELLING me they are being honest, I start to wonder about it.
4. “At the end of the day …” I got tired of this one years ago, well before I left the corporate world.  Now I’m no meteorologist, but it seems that at the end of the day we have NIGHT. If people absolutely must emphasize their conclusion, “the bottom line is…” or “net net” still work fine.
5. “So I’m like … so she goes … so then I go … and she’s like …”  Jeepers.  How about we just go back to “I said, she said,” and forget about “going” anywhere or what we are really “like.”
6. “Let’s have lunch.”  Let’s drop this one, too, much as I like having lunch.  How about we just make a specific offer, such as “How about we have lunch at Joe’s Place next Wednesday or Thursday?”  Or dinner.  Not breakfast, though, unless it’s a job interview or right before a fishing trip.
7. “Are you serious?” Egad. When we ask someone this question, are we serious?  Do we expect them to say no?  How about a simple “wow” or “really!” or an old fashioned “yikes!”
8. “When I was your age …” Stop right there.  When you were their age, the color TV was a newfangled invention.  Or the personal computer.  Or the cell phone that only allowed you to make calls.  Or landline phones that only came in black.
9. “Make yourself at home.” OK, but imagine if someone had the nerve to take this invitation literally. Do you really want them doing an inventory on the contents of your refrigerator or pantry and making sandwiches?  How about poking through the medicine chest? Taking your boat out?  Writing checks?  Phoning your boss?
10.  “Let’s stick to the facts.”  OK, sounds good, but whose facts? And who verified them?  Does a Google search count? What about you heard it from your Uncle Harry, the international authority on weed whacking? (Allegedly.) Who’s in charge of all this fact checking?
11. My wife frequently refers to “that thing,” often without even pointing to it.  And I’m supposed to know what it means.
12. “Knock yourself out.”  Whew, no kidding?  With all this talk lately about the dangers of kids or pro athletes getting concussions from contact sports, I’m not so sure we should be recommending anything of the kind.  How about, “Give it your all, Tom” or “try your best, Sally.”
Nah, too dull.  Go ahead and “knock yourself out.”
Great.  Now make yourself at home.  Just leave the medicine chest and the checkbook — and “that thing” — alone.

Jack Sparacino has a Ph.D. in psychology from The University of Chicago. He has published over 20 articles in refereed journals in psychology and medicine.  He is retired and now lives with his wife, Jane and their three dogs on St. Helena Island. His hobbies include fishing, clamming, crabbing, shrimping and writing.