I have written in this column before about my concern with some expressions that are used with reckless abandon by a growing number of Americans.
Once contained to just a few, these expressions have now grown like weeds across the once beautiful garden of the English language.
The first and most obvious of these unsightly growths is the expression “No problem.” An expression which has come to be used by anyone and everyone who is about to do something for someone else, even if it is something they are being paid to perform and there is no reason that it should be considered a problem in the first place.
It seems every business you now enter, which exists to perform a service worthy of you giving up your hard earned money, will now have their employees tell you that it is “no problem” to perform that service for you in order to take your money.
Just listen; you will hear it everywhere.
Customer At Restaurant: I have decided on what item I would like to pay my hard earned money on that you are offering to sell to me in order for your business to survive and I need you now to take my order.
Waiter: No problem.
I could go on but I think you understand. (At least I hope you do.)
The next expression which has not been as widespread but is beginning to pick up steam is “stuff like that.”
If you pay attention you will hear it just about everywhere. It is not a new expression, but I used to hear it only rarely, used by someone whose general grasp of the spoken English language wasn’t the best in the first place.
I used to think that the repetitious repeating of phrases such as “stuff like that” and the rest were the realm of the younger generation and wasn’t too concerned. They would grow out of it.
But it has gotten worse.
Today it is fast becoming another lazy expression to help move along already indecipherable sentences full of “likes” and “literallys” and “you knows” spoken by people you would be expecting better from.
My ears perked up one evening when I heard a middle-aged renowned scientist on television explaining a complex study he had been a part of. In order not to bore the audience too much he decided, wisely, to finish off by explaining there were many other studies done with the same results. But instead of ending with the more scholarly “as well as other similar studies” he finished with “and stuff like that.”
I’m not kidding. OMG!
He wasn’t the only one. I began to listen more closely and I started to hear it more and more from the mouths of people you’d never imagine it from. Was it always there or is it just starting to spread like a bad fungus?
Expressions like these are becoming an ingrained part of our culture now so I guess we have to live with them.
I haven’t heard it yet, but I am hoping I won’t ever have a discussion like this with a younger doctor: “If we don’t treat it now it could lead to more serious conditions like a heart attack and stuff like that.”
“What should I do now doctor?”
“Well, you should like literally, you know, lay in bed and literally drink like, you know, lots of fluids because your head could like literally explode and stuff like that.”
“Okay. Thank you.”
I can only imagine how some of the more famous sayings by prominent people in history might sound like if they had said them today.
“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country and stuff like that.”
“It was literally like four score and seven years ago that our fathers literally like brought, on this continent a new nation and stuff like that.”
“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself and stuff like that.”
I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.
I suppose I shouldn’t let these kinds of things bother me. I’d imagine that one day, many, many years ago, some kid may have called somebody “Thou” once and it caught on, much to the horror of the elders. It took more than a few decades for that one to go by the wayside, but it eventually did.
Maybe the day will come when the English language has gotten so bad that we will be pining for the days when people used to say “stuff like that” instead of whatever it might be that replaces it.
It could literally be like weird, you know?
Visit Brendan’s website for information on his books and speaking engagements at brendantsmith.com or follow his blog at FoolinNH.com