Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Actually actually actually

In my early college years I fell into the habit of saying "actually." It popped up in almost every sentence, like salt on food. I think, looking back on it now, that I adopted it, having arrived in the presence of so many other smart people, as an attempt to add portent to everything I said.

One time I was explaining something or other to a small group of strangers, and a young woman got tired of my repeated use of "actually." She asked me in a snide voice if it were "actually" so.

Responding only to the mean quality in her voice, I maintained a calm and jovial manner, appearing not to notice her cut, and then, a few sentences later, used the word about ten times in the same sentence, looking her right in the eye while I said it three times in a row. She crumpled with rage and remained silent.

But after that I never used the word superfluously again. A few years ago I had a colleague who used the word in every sentence. I cringed to hear him on the phone. But I never cut him or made any suggestion. Perhaps the mean girl was the kinder.
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