Mindless phrases like “And how are you today?…” are driving me nuts. Or the new horror “Yeah/ No…”
It’s one of the banes of my life – mindless social phrases. I’ve been on the phone for ages waiting for a call-centre stranger to pick up. I want to cut to the chase: to find out why my phone bill is $200 over my normal plan repayments. To simply say. “Hello, my name is Ruth Ostrow. I need to make an inquiry about my phone bill.”
But that’s not how interactions go nowadays. They go like this. Call-centre operator answers and says in a sing-song voice: “Hello, and how are you today?” Pause. I’m then required to say: “Fine thank you.” She replies “That’s good.” Pause. Then I must say in a sincere voice: “And how are you today?” “Fine thanks.” “That’s good.”
That’s 12 seconds of my life I’ll never get back again. If you multiply this increasingly popular, inane interaction by the amount of times every non-thinking stranger does the “blah blah” in every shop, phone conversation, restaurant it soon adds up to at least 10 times a day – or two minutes – which is an hour a month taken up with blind stupidity. By the end of a year that’s 12 hours of wasted life.
Gone are the good ol’ days of the simple “Have a nice day.” I would so love to hold up the shopping queue by answering “How are you?” with: “I just killed my husband!” Would anyone stop in their tracks or would the salesgirl simply follow cue: “That’s good.’
Many linguistic trends are so thoughtless as to defy belief. My daughter comes from the “like” school of mindlessness. Several friends have a penchant for the “as far as…concerned” mantra. “I did think that restaurant was good as far as food is concerned.” “You did something illegal as far as the law is concerned.”
I’ve written before about irritating crutch words such as “necessarily,” “I suppose”, “y’know,” and my fave pet hate “It’s kind of like…” But mindless social phrases are getting worse, including the vomitus “yeah/ no”. “Did you have a great time?” “Yeah-no, it was great.” “Yeah-no I thought the play was good.”
The problem with new dicky word trends is that they are universal. Standing in a hotel in Tanzania, the African man behind the desk asked kindly: “And how are you today?” then waited for the whole blah blah to play out before he’d check me in.
I want to start a new trend. When someone we don’t know asks how we are, we really need to tell them! We must chew their ears off with our haemorrhoids and heartaches, our kids, and last night’s dream, until no one dares to ask any more. Yeah-no, we really must.