A few months ago, I wrote an article called Things I’m Sick of Reading. It was a pretty fun jaunt, mostly covering the things in Science Fiction and Fantasy that I’d gotten sick of after reading just one short story anthology. Since then, I’ve scribbled down a few pretty odious phrases for posterity. They’re not necessarily the worst phrases around, but they keep popping up, like sewage-smell after a Baton Rouge monsoon.
Without further ado, here they are:
5.) “You’ll change your mind when you’re older.”
I’m pretty sure that someone on Cracked already covered this one. It was probably John Cheese. Go read him. Funny guy. Anyways, I hated this growing up, but then, I was an underaged piece of shit who didn’t know his own mind from a snot missile. Now? I’m vintage, baby! And yet people still pull age on me. People act like my dedication to writing, or my love of popular fiction is just a passing phase. They act like since they couldn’t stay fit in their old age, that I can’t either, or that once I’ve sufficiently cultivated my tastes, I’ll suddenly enjoy Ulysses.
Well no means no, ladies and gentlemen. When I was 5 and refused to touch a girl, “eventually you will” might have been appropriate. Or that statement could have just ignorantly assumed that all 5 year old boys grow up and enjoy them some girl-touching. What about all the little boys who grow up to be gay, asexual, basement-dwelling, or crazy-in-an-off-the-grid-log-cabin? What I’m saying is that nobody knows the future except for Buckminster Fuller.
This most odious bit of old-dude drivel is based on an erroneous assumption that the younger person they’re advising’ll turn out like them. There’s few things more galling than hearing a high school dropout 7/11 clerk telling me that once I have a little more insight, I’ll see things his way, as he wipes his greasy paws on the strained belly of a pit-stained white T-shirt.
4.) “Yeah, but you’ll never make money doing that.”
This usually doesn’t come from pit-stained T-shirt 7/11 clerk, but from well-heeled, productive members of society, or from family members who “just want the best for you”, or from my own subconscious. What the heck is with the mercantile mindset of society? Hasn’t anyone watched George Carlin’s entire body of work? To steal a Buddhist phrase: Putting out desire with things is like putting out fire with oil.
As a child, the family next door’s dad loved woodworking. He’d filled his garage with the mystic implements of his craft: bandsaws, sandpaper, varying types of lumber, wrenches, saws, screwdrivers, carving tools. The acrid, musky smell of aging wood lingered heavy in the air, along with the ferric tang of iron filings from his carefully honed tools. Every day he returned from his engineering job, came home and lovingly crafted toy swords for the neighborhood kids, or built treehouses for his own brood. You could tell the man loved his hobby, and, according to my mom, he equally disdained his day job.
“So why’s he stay?” I’d ask.
“He thinks he can’t support his family on a woodshop teacher’s wage.”
And so he couldn’t. It still baffles me, though, why someone who so clearly loved his craft didn’t attempt to pursue a career. My mom told me it was fear. Maybe so. But think of the wasted talent! The man would have made a far greater craftsman than a draftsman. He’d gotten well on his way to mastery, and the only way he’d have gotten better was to plunge off the edge and support himself with his dream.
But then, what do I know? I’ve never had four children to support.
3.) “Well that’s just your opinion.”
As Maddox put it, once upon a time: If it wasn’t my opinion, who the fuck else’s would it be?
The reason I hate this phrase is that if it is my opinion, the Maddox case applies. I’ll demonstrate the other case ad absurdum in two sentences:
A doctor diagnoses a man with cancer. The man says, “Well, that’s just your opinion.”
Most of the things I’ve been told are “just my opinion” are verifiable friggin’ fact. Global warming is not my opinion, and it’s not liberal claptrap. It’s straight quotes from Experts on the damn subject. More important than that, when I say that there’s no empirical scientific evidence for the Laffer curve, or that there’s not one study to indicate that trickle-down Economics has ever increased a nation’s prosperity, or that we need to decrease fossil fuel subsidies and increase green subsidies if we want to decrease our dependence on foreign fuel, I’m not reciting Democratic Party talking points, I’m giving you my fucking professional opinion. I don’t claim that because I have a Bachelor’s degree in Economics that I know more about it than you, and you aren’t qualified to comment. I do claim that if your understanding of Economics comes from 24 hour news stations and fear, then yes, I do outrank you in this discussion. I’ve read countless books on the subject, and frankly, my breadth of thought on the matter exceeds yours. I’ll be more than happy to re-open the discussion when you’ve educated yourself, so that it can actually be a discussion and not your own personal version of the No-Spin Zone.
Now if you want to have a discussion about opinions, then I’m afraid I’ll demur. I don’t debate opinions. You’re more than welcome to yours, especially if it’s not mine, as long as it’s not standing right in defiance of empirical fact.
2.) “I’m not racist, but…”
Whenever someone says “I’m not a racist, but…” I backhand them so hard my hand breaks the speed of sound and the sonic boom floods out whatever blisteringly ignorant statement might have followed. This phrase makes my blood boil and my eyeballs roll spastically upward into my skull. My bloodshot eye-whites show only that I’ve let the demons in. It makes me froth like Cujo in a frappe machine.
Let me unpack this phrase. It means: “I’m totally a racist, but I’d prefer not to be seen as one, so I’m preceding my horrible preconceptions with a disclaimer so you won’t think I’m an ignorant fuckhead.”
Nope, you’re still a racist. A sad, petty fuck who’s likely also employed the phrase, “Well, I have friends who are [insert ethnicity here].” Listen, prick, you don’t have friends who are [insert ethnicity here], you have people who tolerate your bullshit.
Keep your imbecilic mind-barf off the soundwaves, if they must exist. Save the rest of us from your brainspace’s non-Euclidian madness.
1.) “I really need to start learning about that.”
This seems a really innocuous saying for my #1 most-hated phrase. “An enthusiasm for learning,” a reader might say, “Why do you hate that?”
Because this bullshit is not enthusiasm for learning. As Gordon Gekko would say, “Him, I cannot teach.” At least, I think he said that.
Someone who says they’ve “got to start learning that” has taken no steps towards learning, and never will. Their ass has perfectly imprinted their TV chair, their fingers caked with Cheetos dust, indolence, and shame. Ocher smears their straining, pit-stained 7/11 shirt, as they indolently waste their wheezing breath.
Successful learners never say “I’ve got to start learning that”, they just learn it. They take a college course, or, budget-constrained, they go to Half-Priced Books, or Barnes & Noble, or the endless book of the internet, or the public library system. They scour their favorite subjects and strive to master what they’ve chosen to learn. They join groups that share their interests. They use whatever tools their hands and petty funds can grasp to do it.
Abe Lincoln studied law in his off-time. I learned to code C#, speak Japanese, and finished full manuscripts because I didn’t wait until the “right time” to jump into the fray. I did all this because I didn’t spend all of my free time staring at kittens on the interwebs.