First of all, if any of you who happen to know me in real life), and I say the title phrase, please pinch me or slap me or feed me sweet pickles or any other discouraging behavior you can come up with. I’ve somehow picked this phrase up, I have no idea where, and I’m now using it to emphasize the most trite and/or important of points, as though by tacking on “I’m just saying” (sometimes with heavy emphasis on saying, like, I’m just saying) I give my point greater meaning, when really what the above saying does is imply all I am NOT saying. For instance, this morning, with S., as we dressed for work:
S. “Are these socks blue or black?”
Me (squinting unnecessarily) “Blue.”
S. “Where did all my black socks go?”
Me “How in the world would I know? By the way, did you make that hotel reservation for Christmas break yet?”
S. “No, not yet. I keep forgetting to find my credit card.”
Me “But you said you would do it two weeks ago!”
S. I know. I’m sorry. I’ll do it today.
Me “Fine. Okay. But it’s getting late in the year to get a good deal. I’m just saying.” Now, in this particular instance, I wasn’t just saying anything. I was NOT saying “You never take care of things in a timely manner and you always have excuses and now we’re going to end up at a Motel 6 in Niagara freezing our patooties off because you can’t prioritize us in your lives.”
Or recently, with M., gossiping about people we went to high school with…
Me “It was wonderful seeing everybody over Thanksgiving – it was, but it was also weird…”
M “I understand, I get that” *
Me “It’s difficult for me to just fall back into that old role, I’m just saying.”
Again, what I’m not saying: Reaquainting with folks I went to high school with has never really done much for me beyond a select few, feeling as I did ostracized and out of place during most of my teenage years, and old friends really DON’T want you to change, they want you to be exactly the same as they remember you, so much so that sometimes they create circumstances that force you to act as you once did.
I’m just saying.
It’s so funny how we pick language like this up. I had a roommate in college who continuously asked me throughout our conversations if “this makes sense?” – at first I felt offended, as though she considered herself talking on theoretical levels that I couldn’t possibly keep up with but I soon realized she was concerned with her own ability to communicate and she wasn’t commenting on my understanding at all – she felt words rarely match the meaning in her head. By the end of the year I found myself saying “Does this make sense?” as well, loved it, in fact, because the freedom to ask the question gives people the opportunity, to, well, say no. ** I still say it occasionally.
When I moved back to Michigan, the phrase I heard most around the office I temped in was “I’m not going to lie.” Numerous women in the office said it, like “It’s hot out, I’m not going to lie,” causing me to wonder, well, why would you lie? Or, perhaps they would say “Our boss is a perv, I’m not going to lie,” or “The Tigers suck this year, I’m not going to lie…” – on and on it went until eventually I said it casually in conversation one time and S. picked up on it and jokingly said it and we both used it jokingly until low and behold I’ve found myself saying it in casual conversation.
It’s very obvious to me I don’t take enough care of my verbal skills.
I’ll also find myself imitating patterns of speech, emphasizing my sentences differently, modulating my volume, depending on whom I’m speaking with. I used to have a lot of friends in theater and I just wanted to laugh when one or another of them would spend time around a British or Southern or otherwise non-midwestern accented person, only to adapt the accent immediately for themselves. Often the excuse was “Well, I just hear it and I naturally pick it up,” and, I don’t know, it tickled me because even when I lived in the south and desperately tried to, I couldn’t co-opt the North Carolina cadence. But I know now this isn’t any different than grasping onto the phrases and cadences of those around you and integrating them into your every day speech.
I once had a teacher in graduate school emphasize the necessity of care in language, not just written but spoken as well. She prided herself on her ability to communicate softly, never using more words than necessary to convey her point. But we were all freaking terrified of her so this skill, which could have been extremely valuable, was ignored in exchange for cowering in the corners of her classroom and praying she didn’t call on you that day.
Well. At any rate. My blogroll has been updated so check it out – some great new blogs for your reading pleasure. My reading challenges are screwed up but I’m in the process of fixing those – they should be set next weekend. Blogging for me…is not intuitive.
I’m just saying.
*This conversation is an approximation
** Sometimes though I’ll say this when I’m drunk, in which case I really actually do need to know if I’m making sense or not, so I know what dramatic hand gestures to include in my re-emphasis