Saturday, 1 September 2012

Telling it like it is. I’m being real. I won't lie to you. That's just me. 110%. No?

Ever uttered any of the phrases above? Hang on - ‘uttered’ isn’t right. If you’re a real person who 110% tells it like it because you’re not gonna lie you’re just being you, you don’t utter. You throw your statements with conviction - as you should with all that insight you have. 

This post is about to get all opinion-y. Usually I just write about writing but today it's more about talking. It's me writing things about the things I've heard other people say. 
I love language, of course - I'm a writer so I'm interested in the way people express themselves. And I have no desire to write about anyone's 'bad' grammar or 'bad' English because I don't see language in those terms. 

What I'm writing about is this trend of making a really obvious claim about yourself and then glowing with pride about it. Mostly I don’t like this kind of talk because it can be used to excuse bad behaviour. But it also presents interaction – and people – in a black and white way. Not into that. But if you are, that’s cool. Just follow my guide to ensure you’re selecting the right banal statement for your needs.

‘I tell it like it is.’
Say this if... you've offended another human and need to justify it. ‘I'm just telling it like it is,’ you say. No - you're telling it as you see it. THIS IS NOT THE SAME THING.
‘I'm being real.’
Say this if... you believe you have a superpower: you, as a real person, have the ability to announce you are a real person. EVEN BETTER you can also spot a fake person. This is convenient because your world is divided into real people and fake people. (Nothing to do with automatons, unfortunately.)

‘I won't lie to you.’
Say this if… you like saying really ordinary things and making them sound controversial. ‘I won't lie to you: I don't like eggs.’ Great. And, in general, can’t we just always assume you won't lie to me?  

‘That's just me.’
Say this if… you want to behave however you like, and you can, because 'That's just me'. Being yourself - I’m cool with that. But if you use the 'I'm just being me' excuse after you've been a dick, you need to add it on: ‘I'm just being me. And I'm a dick.'

Say this if… you know the word 'Yes' but it’s just not enough. You need to make sure people REALLY understand how much you mean ‘Yes’ so you use the faithful percentage measurement. And, not content with the world-wide accepted maximum of 100, you like to add some on. Bizarrely, it’ll either be just a bit: 110. Or fucking loads: a million.  

Say this if… you want to appear like you're inviting people to disagree with you, but mostly you want to sound French. 'And this is what life is all about, no?' Eugh. Just no. As in NO.

Okay, those final two expressions are not as criminal. They’re habits. But the others display an absoluteness I’m suspicious of. They’re a sinister step up from ‘I’m mad, me!’, but at least the I’m-mads just want to be seen as interesting. The Tell-it-like-it-ises take pride in being twats, while simultaneously thinking they are astute. ‘I’m real, she’s fake’ and that sort of talk feeds into categorising personality types, which is limiting and finite. Be confusing; be confused about people. Explore the grey areas.


Laura said...

Ahh, I love reading your blog, Teresa! "Telling it like it is". Pet hate. So proudly said, too. And "it" is usually the most narrow, dull, bland and unimaginative perspective possible. Is often preceded by a comment that starts something like "No offence, but -"

That said, I seem to have picked up the "no?" habit. Eek!

Teresa Stenson said...

Ah, hello Laura - and thank you. Yes - it's the pride, isn't it, of the 'I tell it like it is'. Like they've really nailed it, got the world sussed.

I feel bad about the 'no?' thing - I have a few friends who do it, it's not that bad, just one of those habits that's snuck in. Where from, I'm not sure, but I always think it sounds French. Maybe it's the new 'like', which I still use, 'It's like, well, I was like - you can't do that, and he was like, well, yeah I can, and I was like...'

Dan Purdue said...

You know me, Tree - I'm, like, 110% real and I tell it like it is. Sometimes I'm too real for all the fakes and, I won't lie to you, they just have to deal with it, no?

Well ... the thing is, those people who take such pride in telling everyone how real they are usually turn out to be the most affected, non-genuine chumps you ever have to put up with.

The disturbing side of this is that there seems to be a growing tolerance for meaningless language - whether it's tedious management-speak, nonsensical advertisement spiel, or the type of hipster guff you're talking about here. This is beyond just getting the grammar right, it's about making sure there's actually some content in what you're saying.

Good post.

Teresa Stenson said...

Thanks, Dan. This was my 'example article' for that Ideas Tap columnist job you let me know about. I had been watching a lot of reality TV at the time of writing.

I'm trying to think of examples of the meaningless / no content type of language you mean. I blame Innocent Smoothies for making it okay for packaging to talk to you. I don't come into contact with much management speak, but I know you do.

I'm reminded of your story 'Xtcokpot' - the spoof restaurant review (read it here, people, it's very funny:

Anonymous said...

Ha ha, brilliant. Good post, made me smile.

I'm a sucker for these, I pick them up. I went through a phase of shouting 'excellent!' at everything just before 'excellent' became the new 'sick'. I hate 'sick'. (God, I'm old.)

So, anyway, I do have a soft spot for 'it is what it is', because it helps me deal with things. But it's also used in the same way as 'that's just me'. Still I love it.

I also say 'bof' which a friend uses (French for 'pff'). I hate 'bof' in the same way as 'no?' but sadly, I am a linguistic sheep and if you use any of these things around me more than once, I'll start. Sad, really.


Sara said...

'linguistic sheep' - marthwilliams, that's the best expression I've heard in a long time! I might also be one of those sheep... ~Sara

Teresa Stenson said...

Hi Martha and Sara - a million percent of apologies for not replying sooner.

Yes, I like the 'linguistic sheep' expression too. I also like the idea of you shouting 'excellent!' at everything. Very Bill and Ted.

Sarah Schofield said...

This is a wonderful post! I agree these lazy linguistics are really annoying. I also find it lazy when people describe themselves as mad; i.e. "I'm dead mad, me..." using it as a way of expressing their personal quirkiness and individuality. And it usually transpires that they are neither quirky or particularly 'individual' in the way they want it to manifest. If they were they wouldn't need to point it out. Rant over and out.

Thank you!

Teresa Stenson said...


Teresa Stenson said...

(and hello and thanks for commenting)

Sarah Schofield said...

(hello back and best of luck getting your Scott Prize entry together. Amazing what an incentive a deadline can be.)

Teresa Stenson said...

(It really is. Thanks for the good luck.)