I’ve been thinking about words or turns of phrase that originally intrigued me but now irritate me, like “at the end of the day,” “that said,” “absolutely,” and one more that really captured me but that I’ve now totally forgotten. I stacked these phrases up in my mind as I was driving on what we call around here the Blue Route, because it was so controversial it existed only as a blue line on maps for thirty years. I’ve been wondering if that phrase would return to me if I re-drove that route, because, as I wrote the other day, my memory attaches to places; for example I can remember exactly where I was (in a conference room at the corporation where I worked for twenty years) when I first heard “at the end of the day,” spoken by a quite intimidating Englishwoman from our British affiliate, which probably explains why I found such a well-worn phrase intriguing at first, conjuring up apocalyptic visions of the world crashing down around us while we all sat around that conference room trying to figure out what the essence of what we were talking about was.
“That said” is like putting something in bold type – it emphasizes what the speaker just said, but the problem is that while you’re thinking about this, about what the speaker just said and about why he (it’s almost always a he) had to say “that said,” you forget to listen to what he’s saying next. This is not in person, mind you (another irritating phrase), because people rarely say “that said” in person – you hear it more on TV or on the radio, when people are called upon to pontificate; and so it’s much easier for your attention to wander, from the TV or radio, when the speaker isn’t there to see you musing absently over his turn of phrase.
And speaking of TV or radio: have you noticed how many times people being interviewed say “absolutely”?
And all of this, in case you haven’t noticed, illustrates my normal daydreaming default mode.
It is what it is.*
*Yes, that’s the phrase I forgot, and I didn’t even have to go back to the Blue Route.