Wednesday, March 2, 2011


An appeal to those who speak the English language, for the sake of my own sanity. Selfish, yes, but I truly feel I might flip. Only you have the power to prevent Matarazzean flippage. Please consider the following:

Sometimes I think all understanding of the the power of language is gone; for instance, when someone tells me he "literally" is going to explode. This shows no respect for the word "literally." And if it merely shows a lack of understanding, I would submit that this lack of understanding is a sign of diserespect -- one doesn't respect the language enough to learn one of its most effective words.

But sometimes, I think people give the power of words too much respect, as if they believe that a mere statement can alter reality.

One thing I would like people to consider ceasing is the practice of opening up statements with the phrase, "Not to . . ."

"Not to be racist, but I hate Italians and I think they are all stupid" does not deliver you from the perils of prejudicial generalization. "Not to be" is not a magic spell that turns listeners into semantically seduced zombies who go slack-faced, put their arms straight out, palms to the ground, and chant, "He hates Italians, but he is not racist . . .yeeesss."

It simply doesn't work. Please believe me. "Not to" does not magically transform what you are about to say into its opposite. If you are involved in a seven-hour conversation botany you are not granted a pardon if you say, "Not to change the subject, but aren't those dollar stores just fantastic!"

Or "no offense." That's a good one, too. "No offense, but you look like a pile of buffalo entrails today." "No offense, but you did a horrible job raising your kids." "No offense, but you really need to brush your teeth."

This use of these phrases make me feel like . . . for the love of Aristotle, I'm so flustered I can't think of a metaphor. Uh. Like something icky and angry. Grr.

Or, how about the other day? I listened to a local radio personality do his impression of Kirk Douglas at the Oscars -- post-stroke slurred speech and all. He went mirthfully on and on about the poor man's impairment and made fun of the actor, calling him all sorts of things and complaining about how painful it was to watch. But during all of this, he would interrupt his extremely cruel jokes, only to explain how much he respects Kirk Douglas; how he loves his movies; how Douglas is a legend.

What's Orwell thinking? Oh, I think I know . . .
This time, it's not about an elephant . . .
The "logic": I love him. I respect him. I have said this, so that makes it alright for me to talk about how shriveled, boring, diminished and emasculated he is and how it is foolish for anyone to let him ever get on a stage because it makes for bad television. 

Holy crickets!

Not to say something violent and silly, but I think when I finish this, I am literally going reach into my computer and pull people who say these things through the monitor and then lock them in a safe deposit box, after which I will write a blog post making fun of their mothers. Don't get me wrong -- I have the utmost repect for these mothers, even though they are diseased, promiscuous strumpets with bad taste in husbands and hideously-placed moles.

Not to change the subject, but what's with those mustard packets?


  1. 'With respect' is another wonderful prelude to being extremely disrespectful and unpleasant, in my experience.

  2. Yes! I just had a conversation about that with a friend of mine. He was once told by a judge that when a laywer would open with "with respect" or "with all due respect" the judge couldn't help but feel biased against that lawyer. Dangerous ground.

  3. After I told one of my students never to say, "No offense" if he intends to be mean, he started saying, "Offense intended," though rarely to anyone but me.

    Isn't the greater problem the feeling that we must pay lip service to someone when we think/know they're wrong?*

    *I find that "with respect," "not to," and "No offense" are all most commonly used during arguments.

  4. Agreed. Oddly, a lot of this seems to come out of a culture that is petrified of offending but at the same time has no respect. Weird.