Ever get caught in a boring conversation? Ever get trapped talking – or rather listening – to someone who just won’t shut up? Well, we (we meaning the editorial staff) have compiled a list of phrases which, the moment you hear them, can serve as indicators, or warning signals if you will, that a long and very boring “conversation” is about to ensue. Properly forewarned and prepared with a handful of good excuses, the reader should, in the future, be able to extricate his or herself from nearly 90% of all such long-winded monologues with his or her ears intact, i.e., not chewed off.
Foremost on our list of “flashing light” expressions is that innocent-sounding phrase: “to make a long story short”. Often, this adjoiner is preceded by a “well”, as in “Well, to make a long story short….” Clearly a misleading and often outright fallacious figure of speech. To make a long story short (sorry), once you hear it, get moving. Clear out. You can be certain that the up-coming story won’t get any shorter, and that you are in for a very long haul. Say that you have to go move your car, because it’s double-parked. Say you just must run home to defrost your refrigerator. Say you have to split to go witness a Venutian eclipse. Just get out of there.
Next among the phrases that should light up your mental dashboard of emergency warning signals is the infamous “to be perfectly honest with you”. This one means that you’re going to hear a whole sales pitch, an earful, a “gontza megilla”. Besides, why should anyone have to proclaim he’s being honest? Wouldn’t that mean that everything he’s said before that statement has been a pack of lies? And why the “perfectly”? Isn’t honest honest enough? No, my friend, once you hear “to be perfectly honest”, or “to tell you the truth”, or, worse yet, the “God’s honest truth”, the red lights must start flashing for you. And you, my friend, must start packing.
Similarly: “Can I say just one more thing?”. Or, “Let me say just one word about that”. Or, “Can I ask you just one question?” Etc. etc and so forth – those little figurative feet that are slipped inside the door (just as you thought you were slipping out). These obsequious conversational re-openers are red lights. They mean it’s time to say “Er, excuse me, but that pizza store promised to make that delivery in thirty minutes and …” Or, “Excuse me, but my appendix seems to be flaring up and we’ve just ordered an ambulance and…”
Some more red lights: “Let me give you an example”, “Let me try to re-phrase this …”, Believe it or not, but …”, “It may seem funny, but ….”, “It’s kinda hard to put into words, but …”
And then the king of all conversational hooks. The ever-popular, indeed epidemic “Guess what?” It’s an opener, it’s a closer, it’s “in medias res”. It’s a killer. Never answer! You’ll never guess it! Just stand clear. Clear out.
So, dear reader, my dear friend (watch out for the word “dear” too, as well as the “my friend” stuff), you’ve been warned. You have your antennae up. You are ready and prepared for all conversational disasters. Now, let me tell you just one more thing…..