But I thought you said…

For my own pleasure I have been reading English grammars. Take a minute and let that sink in. Consider its meaning before entering a field whose primary concern is language. Can one's desires be so twisted that grammar is a good time? Yes, but I digress.

Grammars are exciting because they have a name for everything: superlative, independent clause, dangling participle. Wouldn't you like to be a dangling participle? Not when you feel the fury of the grammarians against you. Who has known anger if not the anger of one teaching grammar to insolent fools?
In all their brilliant categorization, naming and delineating the way we speak, I have yet to find the name of this phenomena; when the speaker says something meaning to be truthful but in fact he deceives his audience and himself. I know what you're thinking, self deception is not a matter of grammar but psychology and you may be right. However, the specific instances of self deception I am referring to are very idiomatic, that is, we use specific constructions of words to signal our listener (and presumably ourselves) that we are about to attempt to deceive ourselves and them. How, you may be wondering, can we have a construction of words that tells us we are about to deceive ourselves and yet still be legitimately deceived? Oh, the wonders of the human person. In case you don't follow I will illustrate.

The first of these expressions is, "No offense, but..." When these words are spoken the listener can be certain that they are about to be offended. The beauty of this expression is that typically neither the speaker nor the listener are expecting an offense to occur. But it always does. Don't let movies deceive you either, through the use of brilliant writing this expression has been used without offense. Yes, in a make believe world that is possible, but I have yet to see it work in real life. And yet, it always seems like it works. This is because "No offense," must always be followed by the phrase "None taken." "No offense, but the only people I have ever heard say things like that were idiots." "None taken." It is the coupling of these lines that gives it the appearance of validity and yet it is impossible not to take offense. If there was no possibility of offense then the line itself would be unnecessary. What we want to be saying is, "This may sound offensive to you but if you really understand what I mean it isn't." But in fact what we are saying is, "I am about to say something offensive but I am going to make you look like a jerk if you act offended." The listeners response could be taken at face value, ie they are not offended, when in actual fact they mean, "I am not going to take the bait by acting offended thereby making me appear rude when you were the rude one. Instead I will put on a happy face so the conversation can continue in a pleasant manner but in my heart I hate you. No offense."

There are many expressions that are similarly used so we can deceive ourselves but still say what we want. "Not to..." is a popular one. "Not to dominate the conversation," means "I am going to keep talking, but I am doing it in a way that makes it seem like I feel bad for not listening while also making it impossible for you to stop me without being a jerk." Similarly "I don't want you to..." or "You wouldn't think me..." allow us to do/be something while making it wrong for anyone to criticize us. "You wouldn't think me a pig if I finished your fries, would you?" "I don't want to seem insensitive but, gosh, get over it." Of course we don't think you're insensitive.

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  • No offence, but grammar is REALLY boring….and honestly I don’t want to sound the bad guy here, but why would you write about it? Not to overstep my bounds, but honestly, get a life man.

    haha that was fun…the weird thing is that through all of that, I actually was HOPING you would be offended…I would look the ass…I would completely overstep my bounds…it really is just too much fun. It is interesting, that you can take something as mundane as the English land of Grammaria and turn it into something interesting and entertaining to read. Bravo.

  • Steven K

    adam, that was amazing, seriously! (does that count as one of those English things?) i suppose that would be me making a positive comment but all the while thinking know one would possibly think a positive comment could be made about that, so i then have to go back and overcompensate my remark with, “seriously.” oh well, doesn’t matter. anyways, like what lonnie said (or whatever he calls himself up there) bravo indeed. that entry just made me feel real again. there, we’re even, i make you feel at home and you make me feel real. this reminds me of one of the first shows we did with ad vivum. we were all sitting around before the show, nervous, as usual thinking they wouldn’t like us when i went on some rant about how even if they didn’t like us, one they couldn’t go anywhere and two, they couldn’t say anything because by that they would be making themselves out to be a jerk because we were ultimately there to minister to them (even though we did charge a fee).
    keep it up, i’m jealous i didn’t pop that one out, but, glad that it was you and not some fool who got offended over something stupid and accidentally stumbled onto a bit of wisdom. is that bad, accidental wisdom?

  • Stephen

    You bastard I hate you.

    Direct enough 🙂 j/k

    So.. yes, it seems the great sin of today is to offend someone. So much so that we can hardly talk! We have to qualify everything. It is quite annoying. We are we so afraid of each other!!!

    I tried to read your comment Steven but it went something like this……..
    i can’t see anything but for the block in my face that makes me see nothing
    i can’t see anything but for the block in my face that makes me see nothing

    wait it was longer than that…

    i can’t see anything but for the block in my face that makes me see nothingi can’t see anything but for the block in my face that makes me see nothingi can’t see anything but for the block in my face that makes me see nothingi can’t see anything but for the block in my face that makes me see nothingi can’t see anything but for the block in my face that makes me see nothingi can’t see anything but for the block in my face that makes me see nothingi can’t see anything but for the block in my face that makes me see

    I love you Steve – miss your perspective. I am an ass.

    Editor’s Note: Yes Stephen, you are. :)  And for you, the casual reader, the inside joke here (I call it a joke but it really isn’t funny, and I say it is “inside” although I am not sure anyone gets it) is that Steve K does not use capital letters when he blogs and that makes it hard for Stephen to read.  The above is Stephen’s interpretation of Steve K’s comments.  A similar note was made on the strange connections website.  If you care to investigate further you can visit the strange connections website in my blogroll on the right-hand column of the main page.

  • Steven K

    and a note adding to the editor’s note: steven doesn’t care and this is all he’ll comment on the form he uses when he types (just be glad it’s out there, when i bog myself down with form, or worse, typing form, i forget what i want to write, so go talk to George about it, he once told me that’s all up to the editors)

    investigation, wow, the blog’s gone sinister on us.

  • Wow, you guys are a bunch of little girls. No really, I don’t think Steve K has the man privates…Well, his formatting is likened to that of a 12 year old gamer…No Capitals and ALL in one huge block..it becomes a chore to read, but like Crime and Punishment, War and Peace, and Catch 22. The work is worth it.