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Let Us Never Speak of This Again: “Obviously”

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One Word That Cannot Be Rehabilitated

07242013-tumblr_mqf1jddZqO1qbcporo1_1280It’s rarely obvious when someone says “obviously.” It may be obvious to you, stuck away in the cinema of your mind, but it’s probably not obvious to me. I don’t see what you see. I haven’t had your experiences. You have not had mine. All those experiences color the lens of our understanding.

“Obviously” is almost always misleading. It nearly always leads to some untruth (just like when your financial planner says “Trust me on this.” That is your cue to run—fast—the other way.)

“Obviously” is condescending. When I say it, I am surprised that you don’t see what is so clear to me. Maybe I think less of you precisely because you don’t see what I see. It’s all so obvious. What do you mean you don’t see it?

If language is about making meaning together and some words can be reshaped to hold the meanings we need to communicate, this isn’t one of them. “Obviously” is a dead-end in a conversation. It seals off further dialogue because of all it assumes about the people present. If I say “obviously” to my conversation partner and she doesn’t get it, I’ve put her in the awkward position of needing to admit she doesn’t see what I see. And that inhibits dialogue. “Obviously” is another power word that hints at more knowledge/style/panache than it delivers.

No one can ban a word. And some words can and should be taken to rehab. But I’ll turn my back on “obviously” and walk away, never finding reason to utter it again.


Image credit: Alfred Steiner via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

July 24, 2013 at 8:44 am

2 Responses

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  1. […] Though “obviously” can never be rehabilitated. […]

  2. […] is you get to ask the stupidest, most ridiculous questions. Questions to which everyone in the room obviously knows the answer. And actually that is when the fun begins, because the answers that pour forth are […]

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