LITERALLY JAB: Muhammad Ali surprised his opponents. NOW listen. But I already was listening. Did you have to say that? Make you feel important did it?
Now that you have commanded me to listen with your best uppity school principal tone, I am going to sit here and look interested but won’t be thinking about anything that spills into the vapour from your pompous gob. I’ll be dreaming about cat videos while nodding away and surreptitiously looking for the nearest exit and planning how quickly I can use it.
The only time I want to ever hear “now listen” is just before Ross Wilson cranks out “Oh we’re stepping out”, providing timeless and sage advice regarding a dance move generations of awkward, sober (awkwardly sober?) and unco-ordinated Australian men – whether they be metro, hetero, or retro – can manage without embarrassing partners, children, innocent bystanders or those who actually can trip the light fantastic. “I’m gonna turn around. Gonna turn around once and do the Eagle Rock.” Yes brother, we can all manage the Eagle Rock. The turn itself can be tricky if done at anything resembling quarter-Michael Jackson speed whilst nursing a dodgy hip or footy knees, but if you take it slowly enough there is a reasonable likelihood there will be little need to seek medical treatment for acute self-inflicted humiliation the following day.
But “now listen” is just one of the everyday sayings that has permeated the language and gets up my goat, which should never be confused with getting on my goat.
What about “I’ve got a bone to pick with you”? Oh spare me days, Nanna. This one buries the passive and privileges the aggressive. Why not say “I cannot legally physically punch you in the head with my clenched fist so I am going to punch you in the brain with a pointless and ordurous idiom as preferred by the most tiresome dolts in the English speaking world.”
“I’ve got a bone to pick with you” is the particularly annoying person’s way of sending a signal that you have annoyed them, winning them an annoyance boxed quinella comprised of being simultaneously both annoying and annoyed in any order.
I never want to hear this tedious phrase again, unless of course you are going to literally pick a bone with me, in which case a courteous invitation to a carnivorous feast may be acceptable, depending upon prior commitments and the nutritious parameters of the fad diet I am failing to comply with at any particular time. You would be welcome to pick my brain at such an occasion.
What about “with all due respect”? Like Muhammad Ali jiving his head quickly to the right before unloading a lethal left jab, this pearler signals something untoward is coming. This is the go-to passive aggressive insult par excellence spurted by attack weasels before they scarper back to their burrows.
Literally is the new “like”. I literally don’t, like, like you using literally. It’s 2015’s “absolutely” and is most often used to sabotage and poison an otherwise tolerable auditory ambience in a situation where an agreeable silence would be just dandy. Please shut up.
Now it’s election season and the Baird government is regularly wheeling out Laura Norder and her get tough promises in the usual cavalier fashion of those attempting to win the hearts of talkback shock-jocks and the Murdoch table thumpers, how about mandatory life sentences for misuse of the word literally? Like, literal life sentences.
“Can I ask you a question?” What? Besides that question you just asked, asking me whether you could ask me a question? I am not sure if I can answer that question without taking it into full consideration that you didn’t ask me a question whether you could ask me a question regarding the asking of a question. Just ask the question.
“I know this sounds like a dumb question, but…” Why are you asking me a question that you are apparently pleased to qualify with a disparaging announcement? Why not rethink the question and make it sharp and focused? Why not pass on asking it at all? Otherwise I’ll take it as a comment and refer the matter to Tony Jones where the Twitterati will joyfully pass comment on the validity of the question’s merits. On the other hand, maybe you could just ask the question without an introductory clause outlining unnecessary anxiety. Verbal oxazepam.
“It is what it is.” Oh Jebus. Just shoot me. Not literally.
“Thanks in advance.” That one means I have flicked you a task by email so intolerable that I would rather chew wasps than do it myself.
“Just sayin.” Arrrrgggh.
Paul Scott is a lecturer in the School of Design, Communication and Information Technology at the University of Newcastle