What is Going on with People and Language These Days?

Once again language has gotten away from me. I don’t know how it happened. As I have freely admitted for months now, I am on the fast train to Cranksville, with all apologies to the Monkees and Neil Diamond. I am rapidly becoming the man who stands out on his front porch, cane waving over his head, screaming at the kids to get off of his lawn. Still, somewhere along the way the phrase “âÂ?¦or no?” has become a regular occurrence around me and I am not a fan of it.

I first became aware of this odd linguistic habit about four or five years ago. For all I know, people have been saying it forever and I just never noticed. That happens a lot. People are doing and saying things for years and it never bothers me and then I turn another bend in the track on the way to Cranksville and suddenly it bothers me. You have probably heard this phrase before, it usually comes at the end of a question.

“So, are we all going out to lunch today…or no?”

“So, did you get that fax I sent you todayâÂ?¦or no?”

“Did I tell you what I did this weekendâÂ?¦or no?”

See, this is a fundamental flaw I find in people these days. I like when people let you draw your own conclusions about things. Look at those questions. The first question is “So, are we all going out to lunch today?” Wouldn’t the only choices and answers to that question be either yes or no? Therefore offering the choice of “no” is completely useless and superfluous. It’s not necessary. The “or no” is already implied within the basic question and it is completely unnecessary to speak it out loud.

The same thing happens in comedy or attempts at comedy. I hate it when someone feels they need to spell out the joke for me. This shows up a lot in commercials. There is one in particular that has been running on the radio here for over a year and what is funny is I have heard the exact same commercial but just adapted depending on the product. I have heard the exact same conversations uttered whether it was steel buildings or Lasik eye surgery. It’s like there is some ad agency out there who has just one ad and then ran out of money to write any more so they just keep using the ad. It goes something like this:

MAN: Hi, I was calling about that great deal I heard about for [Lasik surgery, steel buildings, nuclear weapons, whatever]. What’s the catch?

WOMAN: There’s not catch sir. [Lasik surgery, steel buildings, biological weapons] is a great deal. Yadda yadda yadda and she goes on about all of the great benefits of buying a steel building or getting lasik surgery or buying nuclear weapons or whatever.

MAN: That sounds great, but what’s the catch.

WOMAN: There’s no catch, but, oh, waitâÂ?¦.

MAN: Aha! I knew it! A catch!

WOMAN: We can send you out a free video so you can see the benefits for yourself.

MAN: AHA! Free Video! I knew it�..Hey! Wait!!!

Now, that is where the ad SHOULD end. Right there. Are you so stupid you don’t get the implication that sending you a free video is a good thing? Isn’t getting something for free a good thing? It’s not high comedy and it’s usually horribly acted, but you get the idea it’s sort of amusing and the guy has been led to believe there is a catch and, so they would have you believe, there isn’t one. Well, evidently this ad agency feels people are too stupid to get that so they continue. The actual ad ends like this:

WOMAN: We can send you a free video so you can see the benefits for yourself.

MAN: AHA! Free Video! I knew itâÂ?¦âÂ?¦ Hey! Wait! That’s a good thing!

See what I mean? The “that’s a good thing” ruins the entire build up and the payoff. The “that’s a good thing” is already implied in the “Hey! Wait!.” Are people really that stupid that they wouldn’t get the joke, no matter how lame it really is, without the “that’s a good thing?”

I hate that people feel the need to spell everything out. For me, the best horror movies are the ones that don’t show you everything. That is why the “Blair Witch Project” worked for me and didn’t for so many others, I guess. I liked the fact you weren’t sure what was happening and most of the actual horror took place entirely in your mind. Given the scary state of my brain, that’s a terrifying place to leave things.

So, just like my other problems with language I have no idea how to reverse the course of the “or no.” It seems pretty embedded. It seems like most people say it and don’t even realize it. I am willing to bet I have even said it and never realized it many times. It’s like we can’t let there be any silence between two people and so we have to offer them at least one choice to fill the gaps.

I just find it sad that language, speaking and writing is something that is going by the wayside. With so much technology to help someone spell properly it’s sad that no one wants to speak or write properly. Of course, I also know people who refuse to read anything longer than the sports section so who knows where this is all going. Do you get what I am trying to say?

Or no?

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