I’m the kind of guy who just wants to make the world a better place (mostly for me). But I can’t do this by myself, of course. I’m only one barely employed, mostly unemployable, rapidly aging male, so I’ll need your help. My goal today is to eliminate three common phrases or words that are bothering me. The only way I can do this is with your help, which you can do by stopping the use of these three words or phrases.
A word that has gained a great deal of currency of late is ‘actually’. Keep your ears open for it, and you’ll hear it every day.
The word ‘actually’ means ‘an actual or existing fact; really’. Until recently, it was used only when expressing a fact that was so startling, so surprising, that you needed to use it for emphasis. For example: “George Bush was actually the president of the United States for eight years!”, or “Despite my morbid obesity, I’m actually a personal trainer.”
But today, actually is paired with any everyday scrap of information, no matter how inconsequential. You will, if you listen carefully, hear people say things like “I’m actually a fry cook at McDonalds”, or “I’m actually a student”, or “I actually enjoy chocolate”.
You see, unless there is something really surprising or unbelievable about what you are about to say, something so startling that you feel you must emphasize that it’s true — “I actually won $25 million in a lottery”, or “I’m actually descended from the Romanov family of Russia” — then don’t use it. You are not that interesting or amazing.
In my part-time job working retail, I regularly direct people to the change rooms. I open the door, let them in, and instead of a “thank you”, I frequently get an “awesome”.
Yes, awesome. As in ‘inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear.’ That awesome.
Now, unless Elle McPherson is IN that change room, and she’s willing to help you take off your clothes, and she has already take off HER clothes, there is nothing ‘awesome’ about a change room. Awesome is a word that should be used sparingly, in extremely rare situations. If, say, you were standing at the foot of a dormant volcano and it comes to life for the first time in centuries and spews lava hundreds of feet into the air, you might be inclined to say ‘awesome’.
I know that awesome is also common slang to describe something that is pretty neat or cool. I can grudgingly live with this. But using ‘awesome’ in a situation that is demonstrably NOT awesome — as in my change room customer — has got to stop.
3. NO WORRIES
This phrase, apparently of Australian origin (it sure sounds Australian; those people don’t worry about anything except skin cancer) is slowly replacing ‘you’re welcome’ as a response. I hear it all the time. At my retail job, I might hear this conversation:
EMPLOYEE: “Here’s your change room.”
EMPLOYEE: “No worries.”
‘No worries’ is often used as a substitute for ‘you’re welcome’, which is ridiculous. I mean, who is worried about anything in the above-mentioned conversation? It can work as a substitute for ‘it’s OK’; for example, if someone steps on your foot on a crowded bus, and no harm has been done, you can respond with a ‘no worries’ when they express their regret. It lets them know that everything is OK, actually alleviating their worry. But it simply doesn’t work as a substitute for ‘you’re welcome’.
So, to recap. Let’s all stop using awesome when it’s not awesome, no worries when there is nothing to worry about, and actually when there is actually nothing special going on.
Got that? That’s actually awesome, no worries.