Michiana Chronicles: Speech Grumpiness

Mar 1, 2019

Andy Rooney's eyebrows

Maybe you remember Andy Rooney, an essayist and commentator on CBS’s 60 Minutes? There is no way that I can compete with his voluminous eyebrows, but I often feel akin to his grumpiness. He didn’t have that Eeyore kind of hangdog grumpiness. You know, the “I don’t know, but I don’t think that’s right . . . “ style.  Nooo, Rooney had a fire-in-the-belly, I’m-so-irritated kind of grumpiness that almost made his eyebrows flap in the stout wind generated by his ire. That’s my brand too: a fueled grumpiness. The kind that is fierce, judgmental and self-righteous.

When I was a youth and good people were inculcating principles of correct usage for written and spoken English (and words such as inculcating) into me, they also planted the seeds of expectation of the same from others. What can I say? I don’t deal well with disappointment.

So often everything seems to be such a struggle. Even small exchanges that should be inconsequential turn into irritations. One of my current rants involves the use (over use?) of the word, “grab.” As a young person, I was taught that it was impolite to grab things. The verb “grab” meant:

1. to seize suddenly or quickly; snatch; clutch:

2. to take illegal possession of; seize forcibly or unscrupulously: to grab land.

Certainly doesn’t sound very nice, does it? One might take something that was offered, or go and collect something that was needed, but to grab something was rude. Yet now, so many say that they will go and “grab” something that is wanted. Thus far, I have restrained myself and only had internal discussion regarding the lack of need, even desire, for grabbiness. Looming though is the day when my blurter-self beats down that self-control and my irritation bubbles forth.

Another long-term irritation, even with our beloved NPR, is the use of the word “bias.” Bias to me always had the connotation of being pre-disposed in favor of something; “prejudice” is the negative aspect of this state of being. No one seems to use the word “prejudice” anymore though. Negative and positive orientations all get lumped into the “bias” category. I can only suppose that others think that prejudice sounds too harsh and judgmental: not a problem for the grumpy.

And there we have two sides of my grumpiness coin. On the “grab” side, I think that people are being too ruthless, and on the “bias” side, I think that they are pussyfooting. No pleasing the truly grumpy!

Then we come to “you’re welcome.” That rejoinder certainly has done a disappearing act! Think about when you last heard someone say, “You’re welcome.” Not long ago a guest on some daytime talk program actually said, “You’re welcome,” when thanked for giving the time to participate in the program and I almost jumped up, whooped, and cheered. (In these dark times, it takes so little to gladden my over-burdened heart. Also, I was home alone with the radio so no restraint was required.) This dance into my view of correctness from the usual, and to me irritating, responses of: “Thank you,” or “No problem,” was a moment to cheer.

“No problem” is another problem. When a customer-service person says to me, “No problem,” I always wonder what might happen if my presence or request actually was a problem to this person. Would that person just walk away, or maybe lash out at me?  I suppose that being “no problem” should come as a relief, but instead it leaves me, well, grumpy. My lack of imagination doesn’t encompass the possibility that my choosing to spend money there might be construed as a problem.

How do these irritating catch phrases become so prevalent?

For Michiana Chronicles, this is Jeanette Saddler Taylor, sans spectacular eyebrows saying, “Kudos to those who can stop themselves and think of original, correct and non-irritating things to say in these circumstances.”

Music: "1999 [Instrumental]" by Common feat. Sadat X