Language games

Posted on November 18, 2010
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From The Boston Globe

When someone says “It’s not about the money, but…”, it’s almost always about the money. If you hear “It really doesn’t matter to me, but…”, odds are it does matter, and quite a bit. Someone who begins a sentence with “Confidentially” is nearly always betraying a confidence; someone who starts out “Frankly,” or “Honestly,” “To be (completely) honest with you,” or “Let me give it to you straight” brings to mind Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quip: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

“No offense, but…” and “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…” are both warning flags, guaranteed to precede statements that are offensive, insulting, or both. “I don’t mean to be rude, but…” invariably signals the advent of breathtaking, blatant, write-in-to-Miss-Manners-style rudeness. (And when someone starts out by saying “Promise me you won’t get mad, but…” you might as well go ahead and start getting mad.)

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