Blast from the past – #4 of 2011: “Really?”


Continuing our Best of 2011 week, here’s #4:

As a word lover, I’m always interested how new words get added to the lexicon or how a word suddenly “catches fire” and ends up being used (and overused) by everyone.  Driven either by popular entertainment or cultural blending, the words or phrases become almost a self-parody by the people ultimately using them.

Examples of this phenomenon are plentiful.  Off the cuff, a few would be “Wazzup”, “What he said”, “You go”, “Brilliant”.  I’m sure you could play this game at home and come up with a few of your own.

Today’s post centers on this one I hear running around a lot recently:  “Really?”  In context, it is referencing behavior or circumstances that would make you shake your head or generate a sarcastic comment.  A cell phone operating system company has parodied this in a current commercial.  That got me to thinking about the “really?” incidents I have witnessed.  In honor of the commercial, I’ll keep the examples limited strictly to phone related.

Small digression time.  As a writer, I have tried to veer away from words like “really” and “very”.  They are lazy words, in most cases.  How do you measure the difference between “I played hard” and “I played very hard”?  Can you describe how much more you enjoy something by changing “I like it” to “I really like it”?  If you can describe it, why not do so.  (Yeah, yeah, I get it.  In our text-based, 15-second commercial world, yougottatalkfast).

The most obvious “really” episodes with a phone often come with people driving vehicles.  Like the person holding the phone on the steering wheel so they can text while driving.  Bad enough to talk while driving, but at least your eyes can nominally be on the road.  You’re losing eyes and hands when you text while driving.

Another pet peeve of mine comes on my beloved tennis courts.  Anyone who plays sports hard (really hard?  very hard?), knows that the longer you stand around, the stiffer you’ll get.  So when a player hops over to his phone during play and begins a multi-minute conversation…why bother coming out to the court in the first place?

Or you’re in a business meeting with several other departments from across your company and someone’s phone rings.  Bad form, right?  Worse if the person answers the call inside the meeting room!  If you can’t silence the phone, at least step outside to answer.

Of course, silencing is not enough in a movie theater.  That flashing light five seats down is the inconsiderate churl texting his friend.  And you paid money for the movie ticket why?

But, just a couple nights ago, I got my best example ever.  A friend of mine and I were eating out at a nice restaurant (not too fancy, just nice).  At the big round table to the right of us was a large family gathering; two grandparents, two parents and two kids.  Toward the end of the meal, the waitress brought out an attractive dessert mounted with three candles.  She began to sing the Happy Birthday song to the woman of honor, only to realize two things:  the rest of the group was not singing along and the woman was not looking up from reading/texting on her phone.  As the waitress’ voice trailed off, I tried to offer a little encouragement and support, which had no impact on the group but did appear to make the waitress feel a little better.  The candles fizzled out before the woman looked up.


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