Monday, January 30, 2006

But ...

On observing a heated thread on a discussion list: whenever anyone starts to agree with you or apologises, if but comes into the sentence forget what came before the but! They think they're being terribly reasonable. They are not. They are dismissing what you've said, or in the case of apologising, not actually apologising at all.

I'm sorry I hurt you, but you were in the way

That's a classic! Not those words, but the meaning. The speaker is at best not in the frame, and at worst downright insincere, and too wrapped up in themselves to give a monkeys about whomever they've had an adverse effect on. They are merely trying to justify themselves. Why not be (brutally) honest and just say I don't agree with you? The unfettered use of but merely ups the stakes.

But can be used for good natured exchanges, and in general terms (as now). But (aha!) if there's anything personal hanging on it, forget using it, and you might even come to an understanding.

I'm going to remember this for usage in my writing at some point ...


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