Wednesday, November 17, 2010

But-heads ...

... "are phrases that announce ‘I’m lying‘." So says Erin McKean in a Boston Globe piece -- I hate to tell you -- and, "They've also been dubbed 'false fronts,' 'wishwashers,' and, less cutely, 'lying qualifiers'."

... When someone says “I’m not trying to hurt your feelings, but...” they are maneuvering to keep you from saying “I don’t believe you — you’re just trying to hurt my feelings.”

... When someone says “It’s not about the money, but...”, it’s almost always about the money. If you hear “It really doesn’t matter to me, but...”, odds are it does matter, and quite a bit. Someone who begins a sentence with “Confidentially” is nearly always betraying a confidence; someone who starts out “Frankly,” or “Honestly,” “To be (completely) honest with you,” or “Let me give it to you straight” brings to mind Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quip: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

“No offense, but...” and “Don’t take this the wrong way, but...” are both warning flags ...


  1. Anonymous said...

    Interesting read. I wouldnt go so far as to say these are indicators of *lying* but they are advance warning. I've used some of these myself and will continue to do so.

    I've always taken it to mean something like or even short hand for:

    "I expect and can understand that you may not like the following..." which feels rather stiff in personal F2F, and *not* as a retraction of ownership. Its also a softener that means I am not getting into a full-blast criticism of [topic] and can indicate that I have not completely made up my mind on [topic]. It could also mean that I am unsure I am close enough to give straight advice without these headers. depends on context.

    If the person receiving a "dont get mad but.." advice uses this tip to start getting mad immediately he/she is signaling that I was indeed not close enough to proffer any advice at all with or without headers! I'd indeed stop giving them any advice but confuse hell out of them by slipping in straight compliments with warning markers :-)


  2. Unknown said...

    A friend of mine from IMSc, Vani Vemparala, says that when someone uses the word "but" in their conversation, you can safely ignore the part that comes before the "but." I think I had buzz-ed it before.

    Don't take offense but Boston Globe plagairizes.
    Not :-)