Tag Archive: obvious


NOT TOO BAD

In my expensive but not extensive travels I’ve noticed in Ireland a grand fondness for a phrase that is right at the tip of most natives’ tongues whenever asked any version of the question: How are you?

Try it out for yourself sometime, and, like me, you may notice the answers are so striking in their similarity you can’t help but notice: Not too bad.

If you’ve grown up here in the land of the 40 shades of green, you’ll understand perfectly well what those three words mean. In a word, they mean fine, or grand. And for those who haven’t grown up here – foreigners, as we’re no longer allowed to say… but non-nationals, because that is somehow so much better, isn’t it? – that’s grand as in well, not as in large.

Presently in the Emerald Isle and as far back as I can remember (over 40 years of green ago), the words not too bad = fine. It’s one of those things one might attempt to describe as it goes without saying.

Me: I got the results of my blood tests just now… and the doctor says I all clear.

Bob: Well, that’s just not too bad, isn’t it? Congratulations!

BAD RULER

I wonder if it includes all fines? If so, one might say, I was parked illegally today and got a not too bad. An €80 not too bad. And the person your complaining to (even though you constantly ask rhetorically what’s the use in complaining?) says, well, that’s too bad, and, because he suffers with lice, starts running a not too bad tooth comb through his greasy hair.

Beneath the pleasant surface of this answer… well, it’s hard to know where to begin, or whether to just stop now. I’ll continue… if you… like. Yes, please, that would be just not too bad. Thanks for the vote of confidence and vibes of encouragement.

The first thing that struck me about this phrase not too bad was that it’s usually given in response to the question how are you? Hit my aural-drum all weird, producing a distant dissonance that made me want to howl like a dog.

There are not too many things we can say for certain about the things that people say… however, it can be said that when a person says something, that’s where (at least some of) her attention is. Saying the three words not too bad presupposes at least four things:

  1. It presupposes that, in saying not, there is the opposite of not.
  2. It presupposes that the speaker is describing himself (or her general life situation, or the current event) as bad
  3. It presupposes that it could be worse
  4. It presupposes that the speaker distorted the question from being one that was asking for a positive answer (as in I am this or I am that) and one that was asking for a negative answer

It suggests that perhaps those who use it measure the quality of their life with a ‘bad ruler’. Everything’s measured as bad, it’s just a matter of how much or how little. Answering in the negative is not strictly confined to the question regarding the howness of oneself. It is used in a variety of ways each and every day.

Here’s a typical phone call that takes place every couple of seconds in the city of Dublin in some business…

Bob: (Salesman by day, on the telephone speaking to a receptionist of a large, international, multi-million euro company) Hello, my name is Bob from ABC company. I was wondering if you could put me through to Paddy Murphy, please.

Rec: He’s not in.

Bob: Oh, well, could you tell me when he’ll be in next?

Rec: He’s not in today.

Bob: Hmm. I’ll just call back when he is… do you know when then might be?

Rec: He won’t be in at all this week.

Bob: I see. I wonder – can you tell me when next he’ll be in?

Rec: He won’t be in… until next week.

Bob: (Picks up double-barrelled shotgun, puts barrel in mouth, places finger on trigger)

This kind of negative speak is so alive and kicking in Ireland that it doesn’t take long before it blends into the background. Kind of like pubs – they’re everywhere, but after awhile, the novelty wears off and you hardly see them.

Ask someone why they’re doing something. You might ask your new internet friend why she’s chosen to go to Spain for her summer holiday this year and she’ll more than answer something like: It rains too much here.

Me: Why are you choosing to start this new job, Bob?

Bob: My last job just wasn’t challenging enough.

Coulophobia

Don’t get me wrong… or, better still, do get me right: I’m not saying that it’s wrong or bad or idiotic to measure everything with the ‘bad ruler’, or to be motivated by what you don’t want instead of what you do want. I’m just trying to understand the state of mind or mindset that would cause one to do that. Knowing what you don’t want doesn’t necessarily mean that you automatically know what you do want. Saying you don’t like straight lines does not mean that you like crooked ones.

I met Bob the first time when he came to see me in the hopes he could get rid of his phobia – fear of clowns. Our conversation went along the following lines, and I often look back in fear to think we may still be there, looping, if Bob hadn’t let his cigarette burn down between his stained fingers and jolt him out of the hilarity of his circularity.

Me: So, Bob, what’s the problem?

Bob: Don’t laugh. Fear of clowns.

Me: Why? Isn’t that funny?

Bob: Not to me.

Me: I understand. So, what do you want?

Bob: I just told you. I have a fear of clowns.

Me: Yes. And… what do you want from me?

Bob: I thought you helped people get over their phobias.

Me: Indeed I do. What can I do for you?

Bob: I don’t want this phobia anymore.

Me: Fair enough. So… what do you want, Bob?

Bob: Are you fucking with me?

Me: Is that what you think?

Bob: I don’t know.

Me: I’m only asking you what you want. Tell me…

Bob: I told you! I don’t want to have a fear of clowns anymore. Do you have a hearing problem?

Me: What? No, just kidding. Listen: Here’s how it works. You tell me your problem – that’s the thing you don’t want. Then, you tell me your outcome – that’s the thing you do want. Okay. Ready?

Bob: I don’t get it. Is it me?

Me: Are you Irish, Bob?

Bob: Why? What’s that got to do with any-

Me: Oh, nothing. Now, let’s be clear, I do know what you don’t want, all right? And if you’re ready, you can tell me what you do want, or not, whatever you like.

Bob: I hear the words you’re saying, hear the question, and answer your question… and, around and around we go. Well… I don’t know. I feel dizzy and confused.

Me: About what you want?

Bob: No! I know what I want.

Me: Excellent. Why don’t you tell me?

Bob: I have told you.

Me: You’ve told me what you don’t want. That’s not the same, is it?

Bob: I suppose not.

Me: Let’s put it this way – you don’t want to have a fear of clowns any more-

Bob: That’s what I’ve been saying!

Me: That’s right, you have. So, what do you want instead?

Bob: Why does my head suddenly hurt?

Me: That’s funny. Mine’s been hurting quite a while now. Anyway, take your time, think about it. What would things have to be like for you to… know that you had let go of that old fear and… put it in the past now?

Bob: My stomach feels funny, too.

Me: Laughter’s a funny thing. Would it be right to guess that you are going to… laugh now…

Bob: (Laughing like a loon) That’s it. Laughing! I’d be around a clown, maybe at a kid’s birthday party or at a circus, and I’d be like everyone else, laughing. Having a good time. That’s all.

Me: That’s all?

Bob: Yeah. That’s it.

Me: That’s it!

Bob: That’s what?

Me: That’s all we needed to go ahead and help you get rid of that old whatever-you-call-it was and, you know, be phobic free now.

Bob: That was easy.

Me: Compared to what? Ask me how much it’s going to cost.

Bob: How much?

Me: Not a little.

Bob: You’re weird!

All meaning is context dependent. There may be an example or two to disprove this assertion but I haven’t come across one yet.

These meaningless things people say (by which I mean grammatically and not otherwise as they do convey meaning to those in the know) go unnoticed for the most part by most people. Changing context really sheds a new light on things sometimes, eh?

Let’s try it now, shall we? Now, imagine I’m in a restaurant and Bob’s the waiter…

Me: How are you?

Bob: Not too bad.

Me: What’s on your specials menu tonight, Bob? (Bob holds down a number of jobs while he’s not levitating.)

Bob: Not spaghetti!

Me: (Guffawing into my napkin) That’s funny, Bob. But really, what have you got?

Bob: Not calamari!

Me: Manager!

Originating (involuntarily) from the USA, I often feel glad that we don’t have guns available to the public here in Ireland the way the yanks do. And sometimes I don’t.

The thing about being solely focused on what you don’t want (the problem you want to get away from) means that you don’t necessarily know what you do want, and it’s hard to get to an unknown destination, wouldn’t you say?

Having your attention fixed, for the most part, on the things that are not, the things you don’t want, the things that are only named by (what you think is) their equal and opposite number, and being driven to act with a map in your mind that is not of the territory you want to get to, but that of the territory you want to get away from – sure, it’ll be good for awhile, but ultimately, not good enough.

MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

May be as dangerous as driving down the highway with your gaze fixed in the rear-view mirror. If there’s a sudden alien visitation and a spaceship has landed in spitting distance, the fear that causes you to stay focused, jump in your car and take off like a bat out of hell is a powerful motivation and driving force…

and awonderful thing! – but just for a while. If you have nowhere specific to head for you end up slowing down and stopping in the middle of some cornfield because not seeing or hearing the aliens for a few minutes now leads you to believe that you’re out of harm’s way.

Away from motivation is fine for getting you started, as a catalyst, but what pays off is having a towards, somewhere you can aim yourself at and get to, and be able to know when you get there.

Am I saying that people who are toward motivated are better off than those who are away from motivated? Not necessarily. I’m just saying it might be more advantageous to be aware of the towards, too… at least as much (if not, definitely more) as the away from.

Which way are you motivated? Do you do things because you have to or because you choose to? Why are you choosing to read this blog? Take a moment to get an answer in your head.

To learn something new, to wile away some free time, to be entertained… anything like that is a toward.

To stop being bored, to get away from my non-stop talking mother-in-law, to take my mind off my depression… these are away froms.

It’s worth noticing what it is you are aware of and focused on in either case. Einstein supposedly said that your imagination (the pictures you run in your mind every day) is your preview to your life’s coming attractions. My NLP teacher wrote this on a flipchart: The best way to predict the future is to create it. Does it not stand to reason that if we create and run in our imagination the kinds of scenes and situations we don’t want, if that is what we put our attention on, that they will expand, as if our attention was a magnifying glass?

And just like a magnifying glass near a piece of paper, if you take your attention to a matter, you can never solve it (cause it to burn). Never! Unless you hold it still for a period of time. Focus!

There is another possible reason for why so many Irish natives say not too bad. They don’t want to say good or fine or great or super (except for John J!), or, for that matter, shite or crap or sad or suicidal, because that would be committing themselves, and we are, generally speaking, not keen on committing ourselves, are we not?

Also, if you answered the how are you question with I’m happy, it might upset the person you’re talking too, because you might be happier than him. Or it might be considered that you are boasting. If you say you’re bad, the other person might start poking you with the sharp ends of difficult questions. And that’s something else we are motivated to avoid – confrontation. I’ve seen grown men throw away careers and relationships rather than confront or be confronted. Confrontation is something we’d prefer not to confront, and as a result, is something we are good at not confronting.

BUT THAT’S NOT TOO BAD

‘So what? It’s a colloquialism, people say it, they know what they mean. What harm is there?’ Bob is curious, and it’s good to be curious.

No immediate or obvious harm, I’ll grant you that. But, the underlying mind-set – thinking in the negative all the time, in the what isn’t, always trying to move away from but not go somewhere specific… yes, it could do some harm.’

Picture a kid, say, 3 years old, playing at his daddy’s feet as his father chats with the neighbour he’s just made coffee for. The kid notices that his dad has left his own hot cup on the kitchen table and, wanting to be a good boy and get a pat on the head, he gets up on wobbly legs and teeters in the table’s direction. Bringing the steaming cup over to his father with a big smile, he is confronted with a sudden shocked look on his father’s features combined with a loudly barked command: Don’t drop the cup!

If you’re picturing it, you know what happens next, don’t you? Yes, the kid drops the cup. And who gets in trouble? The kid, not the dad. Someone should haul the dad off into the kitchen, give him a good slap on the wrist, and tell him that if he wants his son to do something it’s only right and fair that he tells his son what that is, not the opposite of what that is!

If you’re too lazy to make the translation for yourself, to figure out, now that you are aware of what you don’t want, what you do want, why shouldn’t anyone else be?

Bob: They should know.

Me: Know what?

Bob: What I want.

Me: In other words, since you’re not saying what you want, you expect them to read your mind?

Bob: Yeah!

Me: If they could do that, Bob, I don’t think they’d be around anymore. They’d probably be living it up on the island they just bought with all the money they made.

Bob: I’d buy my wife a car.

Me: Why’s that? She wants car?

Bob: We were talking the other day, you know? I asked her if I could do anything to make her happy.

Me: What did she say?

Bob: She said that there was nothing I could do to make her happy.

Me: And with a little mind-reading, you interpret that to mean that you should buy her a car?

Bob: Yes, it’ll make her life easier.

Me: And that will make her happier?

Bob: Of course.

DON’T REALLY TELL ME HOW YOU ARE

One person told me that the reason people use the not-too-bad stock answer is because they know that ‘you don’t really want to know how they are’.

Could this really be? I asked my friend if he was speaking from experience. He assured me he was. So, I went on by way of clarification, if you ask someone how they are, you don’t want them to tell you how they really are? No, he said cheerfully, do you? I didn’t know any more. It depends, I said, on whether the person I’m asking thinks that I’m asking the question for the sake of asking it but not interested in the real answer. Maybe I won’t ask anyone how they are anymore. It’s a plan, said Bob.

It is a plan – a plan that might help me avoid the following type of conversation ~

Me: How are you?

Bob: I’m not too bad.

Me: Oh, sorry to hear that. Hope you get better soon.

Bob: What?! Why did you say that? I said I was great.

Me: I misheard you. I thought you said you weren’t too bad.

Bob: Well, I did.

Me: Then I hope you get better soon.

Bob: I don’t understand…

Me: Ask me how I am.

Bob: Okay. How are you?

Me: I’m not a refridgerator!

Bob: Eh?

Me: I’m not a believer in fairies.

Bob: What? You don’t believe in fairies? Does that include angels? There’s this great new book called Angel’s In My Hair…

If somebody asks me how I am, I don’t know about you, but my natural reaction is to do just that, tell them how I am – excited, sad, tired, hopeful, curious, shite… whatever.

Bob: So, will you just not ask anymore?

Me: No. I will ask something. I’ll ask: How are you not?

If somebody asks me how I am, I don’t know about you, but I am at a loss to grasp why I would choose to tell them how I am not. Yet, it’s allthe rage here in Ireland. I am certain there’s some good reason for it, even though I cannot yet find one. It requires I dig deeper. Where’s my spade? Let’s dig deeper… let’s call a spade a spade.

Bob: What kind of car do you drive, Owen?

Me: Not a Citroen Dian.

Bob: So, what car do you drive, then?

Me: Not a Noddy car.

Bob: Why don’t you want to tell me? Is it a secret?

Me: What? Am I not telling you?

Bob: Isn’t that not what I just didn’t say?

And so on.

I feel funny now, too. As though I’ve tied myself up in metaphorical knots. I’m not going to keep writing. I don’t have to sit behind this desk on such a beautiful day. I’m not going to go to Stephen’s Green.

(PS: When I was out and about earlier, I asked people – How are you not? You won’t believe the answer I got over and over again: Fine!)

Confused? You will be. Tune in next time – same bat time, same bat channel… like, you don’t want to miss it!


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ON THE GROUND

See the man in this picture? He’s levitating right now… but don’t worry, he’ll soon be back on the ground. (Except, of course, he isn’t really – he’s just a good example of what you too can do if you get good with photo-shop or somesuch package. Amaze your friends! Be the talk of the town! Stand out from the crowd! Wait – aren’t we told not to stick our head above the parapet or we might get it shot off!) This, by the way, is Bob – a very brave man. Or is it stupid? I get those words mixed up sometimes.

Like the previous saying we looked at in detail in the last blog, this ‘on the ground’ phrase (courtesy of the US Military), is also obvious and meaningless and like a virus, is spreading faster than the droplets of a sneeze! Its usage for the most part is what I call wordwurst (think liverwurst) and is a frivolous filler – a way for buzzword prone politicians and newspeak people to pad out otherwise utterly lame utterances.

Sadly, its usage is not confined to that group, I hear, as I listen to people talking on the ground.

Hear what I mean? Do some people really think that this sounds cool or smart or something? Let’s try it again without the phrase and see what difference it makes to the meaning of that sentence:

Sadly, its usage is not confined to that group, I hear, as I listen to people talking.

Did you hear that? Yeah, me, too – no difference whatsoever, only the simple fact that it was better, stronger, less confusing, less prone to being misunderstood. It also means that the few seconds I save having to hear and decipher the phrase I can choose to listen to something more… let’s see… intelligent, or interesting, or funny.

If I don’t say on the ground, it doesn’t make you scratch your head and wonder if the people I am referring to are perhaps not on the ground, does it? No, of course not. (If it does, your name is probably Bob. Hi Bob! Didn’t know you’d be reading this. Remember our last conversation?

NAME (BOB’S) HAS BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT THE IDIOTIC

Me: I took an hour off the other afternoon when the sun was shining and lazed around in the park watching the melting pot of Dublin City’s exploding population go this way and that.

Bob: These people you refer to… I noticed you didn’t say that they were on the ground.

Me: That’s right, Bob. I didn’t say that.

Bob: Well, where were you?

Me: In the park, just hanging out, people gazing as I like to do.

Bob: Fair enough, but where exactly?

Me: Oh, I see. In the circular centre area, you know, with the fountains and the grass you can’t lay or sit on.

Bob: Okay, fair enough. But I mean, are you on the ground?

Me: Yes. I was sitting on a bench. My feet were touching the ground… well, most of the time… does that count?

Bob: And the people, they were on the ground, too?

Me: (My gast was flabbered) I’m not sure… do you mean not on the ground as in floating, flying, levitating, hang-gliding, being sucked up into the open belly of a hovering spaceship…?

Bob: (Scratching head) Hmmm… I’m not sure what I mean.

Me: That makes two of us.

Is there a context in which one can use this phrase where it does mean something, where it does add something to the statement being made? As mentioned, as far as I can gather, this phrase came from the military where it is easy to see how it might be used appropriately. For example – a pilot might say (as might any other person who is flying on a magic carpet, floating on a gentle upsurge of balmy breeze, or levitating by harnessing the energy of the universe, and, if lucky, with a little hand from the hand of god) to his passengers, ‘Due to a fire on the ground, we will be delayed in our landing for at least another hour’. In this case, not stating that the fire is on the ground would almost certainly scare the passengers as they might jump to the conclusion that the fire is on the plane and bang their head into the overhead storage compartment.

The pilot could also say, ‘We’ll be landing on the ground in one hour.’ There’s nothing grammatically wrong with this statement… but, you’d be right in noticing that you’d probably never hear a pilot say that while up in the air. Why? Where else is the pilot going to land? We’ll be landing in one hour is succinct and sufficient.

This hackneyed phrase, although I’d been hearing it in the periphery for a few years, really caught my attention when I heard the late Gerry Ryan use it on his radio show. As I recall, he was talking to a ‘correspondent’ in LA about the recent arrival of David & Victoria Beckham who had gone there to make it their new home, or at least another one of their new homes. Gerry asked, something like, ‘So, how is it going for them? What’s the reaction been like. Tell us, what’s it like there on the ground?’ Oh boy. Come on, Gerry, I thought, you’re a learned man, why would you say that?

The correspondent was happy to talk at length and as I listened, I pictured him hovering above LA in a helicopter, looking down with a large and powerful pair of binoculars, describing the scene below. That’s when I thought – wait a cotton-pickin’ minute – this ain’t no war zone! – this guy isn’t hovering in a ‘copter! – what?! Again, in defence of brevity and accuracy, why not simply ask: Tell us, what’s it like there?

Maybe I’m guilty of giving people too much kudos in relation to their linguistic skills, but I’d bet that nobody listening would have wondered, if Gerry didn’t say on the ground, if the correspondent was floating, flying or levitating… well, except for Bob. (I could add, it goes without saying, but that would be another meaningless saying, eh? I mean, if it goes without saying, what are you saying it for? By saying that it goes without saying disproves the point that it goes without saying… don’t get me started!)

Come on, Owen, Bob said, what’s the big deal – why are you getting your knickers in a twist over this? It’s just a saying, a phrase, something people say… why take it so seriously?

After correcting Bob’s assumption that I was getting my knickers in a twist (as would be some feat since – it was a hot day remember – I was going commando at the time), and highlighting that the whole point of talking about these silly sayings was to poke fun at them and invite people to stop taking them so seriously, I told him that, in a way, it was a big deal, or more specifically, it was an example of something larger, and that larger something may indeed be a big deal.

THE BIG DEAL

It is not a big deal for someone to use this phrase or that – let ‘em say what they want – I’m all for freedom of speech and expression, no censorship, no suppression. (This, in my experience, leads to less repression, and in turn less depression. I mean, better out than in, right?) The big deal might be what it says about those who use the phrase, or any of the phrases this blog examines… on the ground moving forward. (Just kidding!)

I have no final conclusions on the matter and am still in consideration. I only have questions. The next time you hear someone use any of these meaningless sayings here in wordwurst, should you find your mind wandering, you might ask yourself:

Is the speaker using it by design or default? If by default (i.e. for no apparent reason other than not choosing not to), what does that say?

If by design, what exactly is his intended meaning for it?

Is he using it for padding, just to say more words, or because he thinks it sounds good?

Does he think it sounds good, or does he think that you think it sounds good and maybe, if you do, you’ll think he’s pretty cool or something – you know, hip, with-it, man, for tossing it so casually and confidently into his sentence?

Is he simply showing that he can act like a parrot? Does he hear things that he doesn’t think about and repeat them just because he can?

Is he the kind of person (whatever that kind is) who would happily and without a question, upon seeing those around him stick there hands in a fire and burn them badly, just go right on and stick his in, too?

If any of those possibilities were the case, what, in your mind, do you think that might tell you about this person? Would it be fair to surmise that he gives more value to the sound of what he says (and perhaps what he hears other people say) than he does to the substance, accuracy and meaning of his (or other’s) communication?

Now… if that’s what’s going on… I give you (unless you are Bob) kudos in your ability to figure out for yourself why that IS a BIG DEAL.

Do you remember when America made the huge mistake – for the second time (learning takes repetition) of voting Dubya Bush back into office? And after that, here in Ireland we suffered with the same stupidity-attack, and for a second time (learning takes paying attention and asking questions and gaining understanding) we voted Bertie and his gang of corporate hoodies back into office.

What’s this got to do with anything? Well, in both cases, on both sides of the pond, many voters said the same startling thing: I’ll vote for (insert name) because he’s the kind of man you could have a beer with!

Go figure! – all you people on the ground, as we continue moving forward into the future, I just said… and that goes without saying.

Next blog: #3 Not too bad…

1. Moving forward

Or as it’s known here in the land of Saints & Scholars, Talking Bollix! As a mad old Irish uncle of mine likes to say when you walk away from him, ‘If you fall, don’t wait to get up!’ He must really think it’s hysterical because he laughs at it each time, more forcefully than the last.

It is true for most people that when they are down they want to be up, so it helps to have as many ways at your disposable as you can gather. When I’m down, there’s one thing that, once I get thinking about it, always brings a chuckle to my lips – the way people sometimes are guilty of saying the obvious, speaking the meaningless. Or, if you prefer short and sweet – Talking Bollix!

It’s a hoot, isn’t it, I mean when you really listen closely? Once you do, like me, you’ll safely claim that most of the time most people don’t listen too closely. Why? If they did, they’d be laughing a whole helluvalot more than they do, right? There’d be people falling over in the streets. (Note: Taking into consideration that I am in Dublin as I write this, I’ll clarify that last sentence by saying, more people.)

This blog (what a word – blog! – sounds like something a pervy old farmer might do late at night) is going to take a closer look and listen to some of the obvious and meaningless things people say, not to prove any language theory, but because I have nothing better to do right now and am otherwise bored.

Let’s have a laugh at the expense of those who say these silly things. Perhaps we’ll chortle and guffaw and feel good in the enhanced sense of superiority it will bring, and be amazed that we are such clever, cunning linguists. So, if you too have nothing better to do, why not join me in this pointless exercise, and who knows, we might learn something along the way, moving forward. Let’s go… and if you fall, don’t wait to get up…

And remember this old saying my mother never said: The present brings us out of the past and places us into the future – the present is always now, and the fact that you are in the now now, means that you are continuing to move in the same direction you and everyone else who has ever lived on planet earth has always been moving in, and… do I really need to say it? Yes, it looks like it needs constant repeating: That direction is forward… into the future, not back… into the past. There! Is that really so hard to remember? What’s the difficulty with that?

Moving forward. A perfect example of Talking Bollix! At first, I guessed that the only people using it were cheesy news anchors and Palinesque politicians who need words like filler to pad out their insubstantial ideas… as though the sound of it is so good it doesn’t matter that it is meaningless.

I fear for the future, moving forward, because this nonsense continues to spread unabated and for the most part unnoticed. You’ve probably said it yourself in the past, if you’re willing to admit it… moving forward.

And here we are right now. Isn’t it good to know where you are exactly on the past -> present -> future time continuum? Man, for a minute there, I didn’t know if I was coming or going.

To my ears horror, and my intellectual disappointment, I soon heard Obama using it in his speeches. He’d say something like: We will create a better future for our children… moving forward, or some such silliness.

Or some ham head with a London accent speaking too loudly at the bar even though its early and the place is practically empty, who says to his crestfallen friend, Now, me auld petal, this money you owe me, how are we going to sort it, you know… moving forward?

Why is saying moving forward talking bollix? Because it’s a tautology… it’s redundant… it’s meaningless! Now, if it is your outcome to talk bollix (perhaps like Obama you are a politician, or you work in ‘customer service’ for some bank, or you’re a spin doctor working for BP or The Vatican), then, please be my guest. You are welcome to visit this blog again and again to get your hands on and your mouth around other phrases you can say that make you sound like you have a parrot in your head instead of a brain. Thinking people like to laugh as much as stupid people and if you don’t mind them laughing at you… well, that’s great – it’s win-win all ‘round!

Or is this turn of phrase more serious? I mean, what is it with the user’s of it – are they suffering with some sudden inexplicable ability to tell what direction time is running? Is this some new malady slinking in by stealth… beneath the oil-slick getting bigger, under the black-winged cloak of the Catholic church reaching further… confounding innocent people’s minds with a shrinking ability to know when then was, or now is, or when what’s coming will be? If so, no fear: our friend Big Pharma will soon have a way we can manage this new chronic condition!

Correct me if I’m wrong (you can do that by leaving a comment below), but it seems to me – if my memory-timeline is working – that the phrase really took off when the big O started saying it a few years back… and this little gem of an enigma grew in popularity, caught fire, spread like a virus, and is now everywhere… so much so that you’d be excused for not noticing it anymore.

What if Obama left out the moving forward bollixology and simply said, We will create a better future for our children? What causes him to feel the need to add on two words that add nothing to the statement? Moving forward? What the fuck?!

Or maybe its not him that suffers with the inexplicable ability to tell what direction time is running, maybe he has reason to believe that there are those listening who need to have it clarified… you know, just in case they somehow took what he said to mean that we will create a better future for our children in the past!!

Is this not ludicrous? He may as well say, We will create a better future for our children, I just said.

One possible explanation for why Obama uses this ‘phrase’ so often is because he is an alien. Perhaps the ‘birthers’, although all as mad as hatters, are onto something here. Not only was Obama not born in the US… he wasn’t born on planet earth! He is a time-tripping alien that can go back and forth in time. You see my logic, don’t you?

Imagine Obama talking with his own people – or any people who can also time-trip – and he says: We will create a better future for our children. It would make perfect sense if an audience member raised his nine-fingered hand and asked: Now, in the future, or in the past? Obama might say: Oh, yeah – thanks for asking. In the past. We will change some things in 1933 that will create a better future for our children. The fact that he – or anyone else for that matter – slips in the ‘moving forward’ bollix, could be a slip of the tongue…

Okay, even if he isn’t an alien (sometimes I wonder if he’s Mr Spock in disguise) I can think of no excuse for such a learned gentleman to be so sloppy in his speech. Unless he’s not being sloppy and just doing it deliberately. How so? To sound like the idiots that use it and thereby gain rapport with them? Is it that he thinks it sounds good… or thinks it sounds good to them? Or does he and others simply use this type of bollixology because they heard someone else say it? I mean, that they haven’t taken the whole second it requires to think it through before you realise it’s just a waste of breath? Troubling.

And, now, as I start a new sentence, let me challenge you with this: The next time you hear someone use this pathetic tautology, ask them this question: Is there any other way in which we can move in relation to whatever they’re talking about? If they say no, give them an empathetic look, tell them that it’s okay, that you understand, that it’s not their fault, and then invite them to read this blog.

If they say yes – there is another way in which we can move other than forward into the future – please drop everything and contact me. I’ve always wanted a close encounter of the 3rd kind. I’d like to go back in time and find the symbollixist who came up with this idiotic refrain in the first place and put him or her (but it’d most likely be a him) out of my misery!

Next blog – #2 On the ground