Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Said that

Have you ever noticed how a new or rare turn of phrase suddenly becomes ubiquitous - and then you find yourself unable to live without it yourself? I remember that happening with the verb "segue," which I thought pretentious and ugly - and then one day couldn't finish a sentence without it. Had my thinking changed too? This is a more interesting example than the similarly irresistible "and he was like..." for "and then he said...." Other recent ones include "Been there, done that," the intensely annoying "It is what it is," and the whole "walk the talk" thing. I guess this is what memetics describes, though I recall a passage in Milan Kundera about a history of gestures which would fit as well, and more literarily.

I mention this today because a stack of papers for one of my courses has made me aware of the latest such phrase - one I realize I just used in an e-mail a few days ago: "that said." It pops up in five of six papers! Even more than "segue" it suggests a broader rearrangement of discourse, as it allows a disavowing u-turn in your line of argument (or the line where an argument should be).

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