To be fair, or even to be honest with you, the fact of the matter is, whatever the case may be, having said that, I’m getting a little worn out with all the fillers people use while they’re trying to think of what to say next. You know you do it. Hell, I do it. It’s better than “um” or “uh” or even “like” I guess, but for me, not much.
I had a history teacher in high school that we used to count how many times he said, “um” during a lecture. I would tell you what the record was but I don’t remember. I know it was in the hundreds during an hour lecture. And I’m also sure he had no idea that he was doing it. It got to be pretty amusing. We had to have more than one person tracking him each day so that we had an accurate count. I’m sure I didn’t learn much else in his class, and I’m sure his lectures were very informative. Um, I guess.
Why don’t we train ourselves to just pause? Just stop talking and then start again when you know what you want to say next.
When you say, “To be totally fair,” were you intending not to be? Were you going to be only partially fair, a little bit fair, maybe not fair at all?
Are you going to say, “To tell you the truth…” when you’re sitting on the witness stand? What were you going to tell? Were you going to lie? You just took an oath to tell the truth. “To be honest with you…” Same thing. Are you dishonest with me the rest of the time. Do you never tell me the “honest truth?”
I had a girlfriend once that started every sentence with “The fact of the matter is…” I’m not exaggerating. She started every sentence with that phrase. No matter how much I liked her, and I did, I couldn’t take it anymore and one evening after the thousandth time she said, “The fact of the matter is,” I told her the fact of the matter was she was driving me f..king crazy with all the facts of the matter. We had a pretty heated argument over dinner with a lot facts of the matter being thrown around. I think I hurt her feelings, because that was the last time we went out. Somebody else out there is getting fact-ed… as if it matters. “To be fair,” I think English was her second language, although, the fact of the matter was, she spoke English fluently.
To be totally honest with you, “the fact of the matter” makes no sense to me. “The truth of the matter,” does. Maybe it sounds more interesting to say “the fact of the matter” since it confuses you. Or is it the same “as a matter of fact” only in reverse?
Here’s one that really chaps my hide. “If you know what I mean,” after you tell me something. No, seriously, I have no idea what you meant. I’m pretty sure. I’m dumb that way. “Whatever the case may be,” is also a show stopper for me. Were you trying to make some other case? You really have no confidence in what you said, so there may be some other possible variables? Or maybe what you just said could fit into a number of different scenarios, maybe?
Here’s one, “I’m just sayin.” Yeah, you were. “Bless her heart.” Does that now give you a leg-up to tear her to shreds because you blessed her heart first? You can even bless her heart after you tear her to shreds so you can feel better about it. “Bless her heart, she couldn’t help starting every sentence with ‘the fact of the matter is.'” You can tell how much that irritated me even after all these years.
How about “If the truth be told?” Kind of the same as “the fact of the matter is,” “to tell you the truth,” or “the truth of the matter is,” only it sounds more Shakespearean. If that’s what you were going for. Hey, that’s another one. “As I was saying, to set the record straight,” all of these phrases, or “fillers” as I like to call them, are considered cliches, or even colloquialisms, I guess. Colloquialism is a hard enough word to spell, for sure. Fun to say though.
There are rules in Congressional debate against using some of these colloquialisms too. For example, you can’t call a fellow Senator a “stool pigeon” in formal debate. Didn’t know that, but it’s actually in the rules. Not that I’ve ever read the rules for formal congressional debate, if you know what I mean. I’ve used the term “stool pigeon” a lot, but never really knew what it meant. A stool pigeon is a pigeon used as a decoy. Used most often to describe a person acting as a decoy or informer for the police. A “stoolie.”
Generally, it’s okay to use these fillers or phrases in writing and speaking. It’s not okay to use them like a period or a preamble to every sentence. It’s not okay to use them for a well placed pause in your train of thought. It’s not okay if they’ve become an habitual utterance. Use them sparingly. Use them occasionally. Or don’t use them at all, but that will be hard to do. Just sayin.