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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Yes, those pants make your butt look fat

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: Things you should never say.

Consider this your monthly dose of free communications advice. I really mean it. If you say any of these things, I may be forced to take violent action against you.

I refuse to comment. Uh, moron? This is a phrase the media made up to make you look bad. When you won't answer their questions, they say you're refusing to comment. It's a way to make you look shady and untrustworthy. Never ever ever use the word "comment" when talking to a reporter. It just puts the word in her head. If you can't talk about something, say that you can't talk about it and explain why.

Anecdotal. I sort of understand this one. I mean, you're a bit slow to begin with. You can't be blamed for telling people that their stories are anecdotal. They're technically anecdotes, right? If nobody's ever told you that the worst thing that ever happened to you was anecdotal, I suppose you might not realise that this word sends the message that it's just a cute little story that's not worth taking seriously.

You're stupid. Never tell anyone that something is safe. It might be safer, but it's not safe. The second something bad happens, you'll be screwed.

I'm not going to talk about it. That will make everyone else stop talking about it.
I have lost all respect for you. Fortunately, I didn't have much to lose. You don't control what other people say, and you don't control their opinions about what's important. The only thing you can control is whether you tell them your side of the story.

I don't know what happened, but I assume...
Uh, hello? Stop talking. If you don't know what happened, just shut up. The last thing you want to do is start guessing about it in public. Your educated guesses are helpful in private while you're trying to figure out what really happened. They are not helpful to anyone else. Tell people you're going to find out what happened, and then go and find out.

You didn't use the same words I did, so you're wrong.
No, she's not. You're a control freak who can't stand it when someone else talks about your favourite issue. There are times when you need to use your jargon. Those times should be very rare. If your jargon's really the only way to explain something, tell people why. At all other times, normal people should be able to understand you and talk about the issue using normal English. Don't tell people you're collecting nasopharyngeal swabs when you could just tell them you need to rub the insides of their noses with Q-Tips. And it's a waste of your energy to get upset with them when they don't use your jargon.

Not in my backyard. Okay, I knew you were an idiot, but this takes the cake. People don't say this about THEMSELVES. The phrase means that a selfish person is refusing to go along with something that almost everyone agrees is in the public interest. Usually the selfish person thinks it's in the public interest, too, he just doesn't like the way it would affect HIM. Until recently, I wouldn't have believed that it was even possible for someone to be this dumb. However, you have surprised me. Boy, I love surprises.


A. said...

I've wanted to use the phrase "Not in my backyard" with a few people - mainly the Old Drunk and Sullen Teenager that seemed to think that the sidewalk was a suggestion. Cutting through my yard was where the REAL action was!

OK, that was a really bad attempt at humor. I plead the Toddler That Doesn't Understand Bedtime Hours for that.

Carry on...

Torq said...

I use the term Anecdotal from time to time. Not that it's my favourite word in the whole world or anything, but I want to defend my right to use it!

Our langauge has many words and we should take advantage of this by using the word which has the specific meaning and connotation that is called for by the situation. However, if you are going to use a word, it is your responsibility to know what it means and what the various connotations of the word are!

Speaking of which I have a nifty little anecdote for you... (not really)

Megan said...

"Anecdotal" only becomes a problem when you use it like this:

"There have been some anecdotal reports of death. However, there are no scientific studies showing that smoking causes cancer."

The word's just fine in many situations. Unfortunately, it doesn't work well on the radio as part of crisis management.