In high school, I was involved in forensics and debate. Pretty good at it, but I don’t like it anymore because while the arguments from both sides are interesting and well-thought out, there is generally a winner and a loser. I’d rather discuss, talk, converse. Mostly, listen. Observe.
Something, for a long time, never felt right about the word ‘but’. Couldn’t put my finger on it.
It wasn’t until I had a very wise professor, a mentor, in one of my counseling graduate classes explained what I intuitively knew or at least suspected: the word ‘but’ negates everything that was previously stated in that sentence.
Hmmm . . .
Yes, really. If you think about it, ‘but’ is the great minimizer, the great detractor, the great put-you-in-your-place word. It smacks of insincerity.
, but . . .
How about the following:
“I really like what you said, but . . .”
“Great song, but . . .”
“I really loved your manuscript, but . . .”
“You’ve done a really wonderful, fabulous job, but . . .”
“You’re a really good-looking person, but . . .”
“Great interview, but . . .”
“Great smile, nice hair, wonderful personality, but . . .”
, but . . .
No matter what precedes ‘but’, it is immediately diminished. It is lessened. Minimized. And in the words of my former professor, negated.
What follows ‘but’ is generally a put-down, or at the very least a let-down, even if the speaker or writer softens it as much as possible. Every inch of my . . . of your . . . being prepares for the ultimate.
I suppose not every ‘but’ can be avoided. That one great qualifier is ingrained, embedded in our speech patterns, our writing. We use it a lot. Notice who uses it, how it’s used, when it’s used.
I think it is human nature to look for any and all negatives that come our way. We become so attuned to it that we might receive ten compliments, without the ‘but’ that when we do receive a negative or one ‘but’, that’s all we focus on. Sad. Really sad.
Perhaps we can do better, you and me. We can, I think, be more aware of using that one, tiny little word. We can be more thoughtful with our use, our approach, to words. Especially that word. Something to think about . . .