I’m just saying.

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

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15 Responses to I’m just saying.

  1. Sabra says:

    Ha! Very funny entry. I’ve recently been delighted with noticing the many times a day that my friend and work colleague says “When it comes right down to it…”. She says this so much that “when it comes right down to it” she’s not coming right down to it at all. I’m just saying.

  2. Amy says:

    Remember about 2 years ago when you tried out “what up, yo.” for a little while? I loved that on you, you should try it again!

  3. Kerryn says:

    Ummm… have you been eavesdropping on D and me? That sounds like a conversation, including the bits you weren’t saying, that we’ve had more than once.

    I think that, given long enough exposure to another’s speech patterns or linguistic quirks, it’s inevitable that we start to incorporate some into our own speech. It’s a way of identifying with someone, creating an unconscious bond and in that, similar to body language in its potential as a mode of communication.

    Unfortunately, I’ve known people who use this technique as a form of manipulation, who appear sympathetic by mirroring language and speech patterns who are anything but. (hmmm… no, I’ve never taken any NLP courses, just in case you’re wondering.)

    Me? Two weeks in Ireland and I came home with the softest of Irish brogues. Two weeks in New Zealand and two Kiwi colleagues influenced my accent so much my boss’ boss thought I was a Kiwi. And according to D, I’ve picked up a word from one of the Dirty Harry movies (and I’ve not watched any of them the whole way through) that I overuse to the extent I’ve had to ask him to point it out. Our conversation these days is littered with “Yeah” (sounds like Yeah-uh and does not imply agreement in any way, shape or form) and “You did it again — stop it!”.

    Now I’m off to have a ferret through your blogroll.

  4. Kerryn says:

    Oops… sorry for the long comment…

  5. I tend to be very casual with language around my husband – I’ve known him for a long time, we come from the same home town and he gets me. But when we speak English to second language speakers (which happens a lot, but less the more our German improves) we have to be very conscious of leaving out these kind of phrases that have multiple, confusing meanings. We have to speak a very sparse, clean English. It’s a good exercise but not nearly as colourful!

  6. litlove says:

    Oh I did love this. Those little language quirks really amuse me, too, and it’s so easy to fall into them. I say ‘really’ too much. It’s like getting the needle stuck in a groove when you want a superlative and can’t find the right one. And I used to say ‘you see’ as a form of punctuation to my oral sentences. My father always teased me, saying ‘Would that be the TUC?’ and to this day I don’t know what was wrong with my usage of it. I still like it, you see.

  7. Katie says:

    I’ve started adding, “you know?” at the end of sentences. I am very aware that I need to stop but someone in the office is famous for it and despite my best efforts, I picked it up!!

  8. Sabra, thanks for stopping by and commenting! When it comes right down to it…LOL – I can see how that would be a slippery slope.

    Charlotte – that reminds me of litloves post about how meaning can be lost in translation…

    Amy – another great example of when S. and I are joking and the adapt ridiculous language. But what happens in 2004 should stay in 2004! 🙂

    Kerryn – never apologize for a long post! And I think you are absolutely right about adapting our language patters as a way of identifying.

    Litlove…it is so easy to pick up on language things like this…I really need to watch myself, you see. (Actually, I like ‘you see!’

    Katie – ah, another easy one to pick up. I think you know is another form of “does this make sense” and litloves “you see…”

    In fact, “does this make sense,” “you see” and “you know” actually all mean the same thing…you re asking the person you are conversing with how the communication is going, if they are understanding you…hmm. Interesting. Last night after reading this S. reminded me how we used to say “I don’t have a problem with that,” too.

  9. Andi says:

    The hot phrase in my area right now is “not so much.” Example: I was going to go out tonight, but the weather’s horrible. Not so much.”

    Annoying for sure, but I can’t seem to shake it. One of my greatest triumphs this past week was when a good friend called in the middle of his Thanksgiving dinner just to tell me that he finally slipped and said “not so much.” I won!

  10. LK says:

    How do words and phrases creep in? So fascinating. “Cool” is the word of the moment around the office. Recently supplanting “Amazing.”

  11. Dorothy W. says:

    Great post! I’m very curious about and a little afraid of what language I might have picked up from my husband and now use unknowingly. An acquaintance made a comment about the “personality meld” that marriage causes that freaked me out a bit. I can’t think of any phrase that I use repeatedly right now, which is scary because I’m sure there are tons. I just don’t recognize them. I must listen to myself, I suppose.

  12. Dorothy W. says:

    Oooh — “I suppose” is what I say and write all the time!

  13. Emily says:

    Reading this post made me realize how much I’ve missed reading your blog during this period in which I haven’t been out in the blogosphere too much. Thanks for the much-needed laughs!

  14. bloglily says:

    My problem is imitating people with strong accents or other very compelling speech habits. It’s very embarrassing to discover I have no fixed personality. The other thing I worry about is my writing tics. I know I say “lovely” way, way, way too much. And I am too ashamed to actually record the many other instances of overused language I’m guilty of. But it’s quite clear I need to compile a little thesaurus of praise words, and I need to stay away from ferriners with strong accents.

  15. BikeProf says:

    I wonder if certain types are more prone to be language sponges, or if it is more or less universal. Like Kerryn, I tend to unconsciously imitate certain accents (usually Irish, for genetic reasons, I guess). I think one of my phrases is “a sort of.”

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