Friday, April 11, 2008


There are these things we say that don't have any actual meaning, if you stop to think about them. They are pure filler, existing just to take up space in conversation:

-Every dinner discussion of religion will undoubtedly end with someone sing-songing: "Well-in-the-end, it-all-comes-down, to-a-matter-of-personal-faith." And that phrase will end the conversation every time, no matter what issue or religion you're talking about. It doesn't have to have a direct correlation either, it just means "I'm tired of talking about this, for the love of whatever god you believe in lets move on."

-"I know just enough to be dangerous" is one that drives me crazy. First of all, knowledge doesn't just make you dangerous by itself. Thinking that you know more than you do, now that's dangerous. But if you're using that phrase, then you know how little you know, so you should probably just not do the thing you're dangerous at. It doesn't make any sense, but people say it anyway, and other people chuckle, even though it's totally not funny.

-Saying "lets shed a little light on the subject" when you hit a light switch. This one is, I'm fairly sure, limited exclusively to my mother.

And those are just the day-to-day meaningless phrases. We have more complex ones for more complex situations.

Break-up talks often use this little gem: "I just need to figure some things out" and the even more hilarious, "YOU just need to figure some things out."

The implication here is that human beings achieve emotional stability through a complex series of calculations! It's as though the person is going to retreat into a quiet library with an abacus and a box of tissues, gradually working out some kind of psychological sudoku puzzle until they sit bolt upright and yell, "Of course! Six and Eight have to be in the bottom block, so only seven can go in the middle square! That's why I'm scared of intimacy!"

But I think my favorite of these phrases is the tragic-news go-to: "Let me know if there's anything I can do."

I know it's just a nice thing to say, but I always find it difficult to hear, because . . . . I mean seriously . . .

How can I let an opportunity like that go?

"Actually there is something you can do, get me fifteen red paper clips."*
"Paper clips. Red. Fifteen exactly. I don't care what size."
"Well, ok . . . why?"
"Just get them. RIGHT NOW."

*Other options

1. A blond wig, a can of motor oil, and a glass eye.
2. A gold plated hand puppet in the shape of a monkey.
3. Swords . . . SWORDS.

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