A reader’s requests

Today I’m going to take a little look at words or phrases one reader told me they get annoyed by. (I’m always open to requests, if you feel something needs proper examination. It’s like a service I can provide for the frustrated vocabulary-user.)

The first of these, I am definitely guilty of. It’s “to be honest…” or “if I’m being honest…” Which is a bit of a suspicious pretext to give your sentence. Like, ‘It doesn’t matter if I’m telling the truth the rest of the time, or if you think I’m telling the truth. No, that doesn’t matter. I just need you to know that I’m being honest, now.’ It also sounds a bit archaic, like you’re about to make a statement of great wisdom which might be similar to “To be or not to be.”

“To be honest… is a good thing to be.”

I’m trying to think what it might really mean. Does it have a meaning or is it actually quite redundant when you examine it properly? If I say, “I’m really upset about that,” does it because more serious or important or meaningful if I say, “To be honest, I’m really upset about that”? You know, I don’t think it does mean anything apart from “To be honest,” which is to say that the rest of my words and speech are said in frivolity, they might be true, they might not be, you’ll never know… whatever.

“Don’t get me wrong.” That’s another one. Firstly it’s grammatically clumsy. It obviously means, “Don’t misunderstand me” or “Don’t perceive me wrong,” so why am I saying ‘get’? And also, how can you tell someone not to misunderstand you? If you are about to say something which doesn’t have a clear meaning or could be misunderstood, surely you should explain what you are trying to say, not just tell the listener, don’t misunderstand me but e.g. you look awful today. They’re obviously going to misunderstand you unless you explain what you really mean.

“At the end of the day.” Where did this concept of ‘a day’ start? “At the end of the day, we’re all going to die,” people say, or something similar. It makes it sound really doom-and-gloom-y. Like there’s going to be an apocalypse at 9pm, everyone, get ready, because “at the end of the day, we’re all going to die.” Even if it doesn’t literally mean, ‘the day’ it just means ‘at some point’, it’s still not quite right, because we’re not all going to die en masse, are we? If I were to make a law correcting this sentence, I would decree that people must say ‘at the end of each person’s life, they will die,’ which is a lot more accurate. Another way it is commonly used is in e.g. concluding an argument, with “at the end of the day, it’s not a problem.” But it is a problem now? It actually means, ‘in conclusion’, doesn’t it? There must be a better way of saying ‘in conclusion’ without saying ‘at the end of the day,’ which is quite silly, when you think about it?

Another phrase I use all the time has just occured to me, “By the way.” By the where? The way? Where’s the way? And why are we by it when really what you mean is ‘also’ or ‘as an aside’. How silly. “By the way.”

2 responses to this post.

  1. I know I’m a few months behind on this but I need to add one that I hate: “I don’t mean to be rude, but…” you are obviously meaning to be rude. “I don’t mean to be rude, but, you look like garbage.” ohhh… now I know that you think I look like garbage in a NICE way! thanks!


    • Yeh, whenever someone says something like that, it’s never good. Another one is “I’m not being racist but….” And they then proceed to make a racist comment!


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