Literal… To Be or Not To Be January 10, 2015

The inspiration for my writing today comes from the insightful wisdom of my husband. He is a very literal person and I have learned over the years to change some of the ways I say things as a product of his influence. I must admit, sometimes it has been slightly annoying… er, um correction… exceptionally annoying when he interjects his literal tendencies upon me, however overall he makes rather valid points I fail to challenge sufficiently if I even attempt.

One of his literal phraseology pet peeves is when people use the verbiage “to be honest with you” as a prelude to something they are saying. When I first said this to him {long ago} he immediately interjected before I could finish the rest of my sentence with “and I want you to be.” If we’re out with friends and a close friend happens to use this line in their speech, he’ll wait until they’re done speaking and then assert “so you’re not honest with me any other time?” When you contemplate the line, it really is a very silly thing in which to pre-qualify a statement; it should be replaced with “to be candid with you” or “to be frank” as this is the true meaning of what anyone is asserting when they say “to be honest with you.” Long ago, I removed this phrase from my sentence structuring and every time I hear someone say it, I too, am moved to the point of retorting in much the same way my husband did which effected my permanent change.

Further examples of his unbending literal-ness is when someone exclaims “there’s nothing worse than” or “I could care less.” We have a friend who uses the first one as her way of dramatizing certain things. If we’re out to dinner, she might say “there’s nothing worse than being served cold soup.” To which my husband will immediately chime in and say “Really? So if you were boiled in acid, that wouldn’t be worse?” Obviously, his extreme rebuttal line is for the sake of pointing out that there really are worse things than receiving cold soup for a meal. As for the other one, he pointed out to me that I was saying “I could care less” when I wanted to impart the fact that I really couldn’t care less. My feathers were slightly ruffled at his accentuation of this fact, and then I realized he’s absolutely got a very valid argument I cannot refute. To say I could care less means quite the opposite of what I’m trying to say in that I could NOT care less.

Suffice it to say, the idioms people use can be changed to make more sense to those in this life who are more literal than others. I have changed my word usage because it absolutely does make more sense, however I now find myself dissecting how everyone else speaks when they mis-use their phraseology. The funniest part of sharing this whole segment with you is getting to describe a couple instances where my husband’s and that of my son-in-law’s literal nature completely backfires and the tables are turned on them by none other than our {at the time} four-year old granddaughter, Trinity.

Trinity got her ears pierced and as she was sitting at our bar waiting on Grandpa to make her pizza, she was showing him and telling him about her new pierced ears. My hubby, now feeling as though the younger generation often has multiple piercings in different places, was kidding around with her when he then replied “so what next?”, “what happens next?” to which Trinity simply responded “I went home.” With our family well aware of his proneness for being literal, we busted into laughter at getting to witness such a literal statement fly in his direction from such a tiny tike. Another time, her Uncle Dan was asking her about a rather unique domino game box which was sitting on the table in front of them at a holiday family gathering. It looked like a game adults would play versus a younger child. As Dan was verbally and out loud inquiring about the game to others nearby, Trinity exclaimed what the name of the game was and that she had played it. Doubting Dan then counters Trinity with “how do you know about this game, where have you played it before?” To which Trinity delivers the most brilliant and literal answer…..”here, on the table.” Not only does my wise and wonderful husband bring literal lessons to us, but from the mouths of babes bounces the unknowing and unsolicited tutorial right back; keeping those literal individuals firmly in check!

What to derive from this entry of today is the question. Perhaps the choice in phrases makes no difference to you, however I’m betting the next time you hear yourself say “to be honest with you”, or you hear someone else say it to you… just may feel compelled to rethink it because you’ll find yourself standing in the shoes of literalism. And after all, my husband would assert it’s a very good place to be! {and don’t tell him, but I mostly agree.}

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  1. Karen R Schmidt

    Tammy as your mother I continually have to remind myself that you are my daughter. I actually believe you are brilliant. Your writing skills blow me away. I truly believe you could write a great book, however you wouldn’t find it very much fun.
    I love your blog today because it brings back memories of my discussions with David. I no longer use the term ” to be honest” in my discussions. David makes perfect sense when pointing it out.
    I hear others say it all the time and resist the temptation to say anything. I’m proud you are so passionate about the many gifts God has given us.
    You are grateful for the many things many of us take for granted. God Bless you my dear daughter I love you !

    • Thank you dear mother for reading and supporting my blog efforts!! I love you too! You’re correct on the book thing… I think I’d get bored much too quickly before it was ever complete. That speaks to why this blog has many faces… I can write on any topic that’s moving me at the moment and attempt to deliver value to my audience in the way of information, insight or entertainment. Thanks for the feedback!!


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