A humourous piece in the current issue of Toastmaster magazine illustrates the difficulty many of us have in conversational responses without contingencies.
The author focuses on the common crutch word ‘but’, all too often used as an appendage to a reply which begins with ‘yes’ or ‘yeah’. Many of us feel the urge to qualify our rejoinders. If we do, that may be either with a positive or a negative bent.
Where ‘buts’ come in (so to speak), the speaker may be deemed cautious, possibly realistic, about the subject being considered. Situations are frequently not clear-cut, or simple to affirm. Rose-coloured glasses may not be applicable.
Well, at the very least, anyone averring that things are not fine on their face is not a sycophant.
The author uses a couple of familiar scenarios to illustrate such attitudinal behaviour in action.
When talking with someone – it might take two – about the weather, chances are pretty good there will be a “Yes, but it’ll be cloudy or rainy by tomorrow” type of comment. As the late, observationally brilliant, comedian George Carlin once warned, “Remember, behind every silver lining is a dark cloud”.
In discussing some personal condition with a medical specialist, there are likely to be “Yeah (or yes), but…” potential ramifications. I would suggest the likelihood of this complication is being increased nowadays due to the expanding prevalence of compliance forms or verbal advisories, affecting many professions.
“A Yeahbut is like a funeral director at a birthday party”, is the simile endorsed by the author. Moreover, a ‘Yeahbut’ will gloss over good or hopeful news or thoughts, feeling “compelled to point out the illusory nature of such thinking and to remind us of the woe, misery and despair that are forever lurking just beneath the surface of all human endeavor.”
One, perhaps expected, result is that a ‘Yeahbut’ person may not be a fun person. This is someone who will be confronted with wide possibilities in life, responding that (yes, but) a lot of these are connected with means to harm us as well.
The author concludes with the suggestion that, ‘Yeahbut’, there have been famous and successful naysayers, naming Julius Caesar and Napoleon. Who would want to ‘but’ their way out of such uplifting inspirations?