OK, I’m tired of hearing the word “actually.”  I’m actually sick of it.  Really. 

I mean, what does “actually” really mean?  Most dictionaries define “actually” as “in reality”, really.  I mean “really.”  But why is it actually necessary to say “in reality” every couple of sentences.  “In reality” I feel sick.  Or “in reality” I don’t like people using “actually” every few sentences. 

As opposed to what?  Fantasy or unreality, right?  But why should I have to quality my statement by stating so declaratively and affirmatively that what I’m talking about is not fantasy?  Suppose instead I used a synonym “not in fantasy” or “factually.” 

“Not in fantasy” I’m up late at night writing this.  Or “factually” I’m listening to music right now.  I’m sure if I substituted “not in fantasy” or “factually” and used it as often, that is, every couple of sentences, people would look at me peculiarly and might even think I’m crazy or stoned or something.  Really.

Look, I’m not crazy.  Not in fantasy, the truth is I’m retired and have nothing better to do that think about stuff like this.  I mean, that’s what writers think about.  Why do people have to qualify their statements by stating that whatever it is they are about to say is not fantasy but factually true? 

And what does using “actually” say about the people who constantly overuse the word?  You’ll hear it on the TV all the time—news anchors, so-called experts and commentators, special guests and celebrities.  Some reporter will say something like, “I’m actually here in downtown Boston, the scene of the bank robbery.”

As opposed to what?  “In my dreams” I’m here in downtown Boston.  Why is it necessary for the reporters to tell us they’re not dreaming.  Actually, I’m the one sitting in my Lazy-Boy half asleep trying to keep my eyes open and watch the news about some thwarted terrorist attack, drug bust or bank robbery. 

I’m the one who should be saying “not in my dreams” because I’m just about sleeping as I write this.  I actually think so.  But the reporter is on the job on some busy street in downtown Boston.  Sleeping is out of the question, especially when they’re questioning people and getting the scoop.  How about when they’re reciting the report in front of all the cameras and shiny lights?  Do they actually have to tell us they’re not dreaming at the time of the report? 

You know what I think:  people who use “actually” every other sentence are a bunch of pompous, pretentious phonies.  They’re just plugging in words because they like the sound of their own voice.  They’re full of themselves.

Anyway, now that I told you about “actually” you’ll begin to hear it constantly. You’ll say to yourself, “why is this sonnafagun constantly telling me he/she isn’t dreaming? What a phony. Really.” 

But wait a minute, what if “actually” is merely a parasitic word, a meme, a computer virus?  It’s just a word with no meaning that replicates itself like a parasite.  Like junk DNA that replicates itself just for the sake of surviving from one generation to the next. 

Consider this sentence.  A gruff steel worker came home from a hard day at the mill and growled at his passive wife: “Take the fuckin’ dog out.” 

In a discussion of parasitic memes we are forced to ask: what does reproductive, doggie-style coitus have to do with not wanting the dog to smell up the place?  The “f-word” is a meme.  It’s a parasite that contributes absolutely no meaning to the communication other than to make the speaker feel more macho, cool, or whatever the memetic hook happens to be. 

So much for Intelligent Design.  Nature is full of parasitism and it’s one of the earliest and successful forms of life.  Parasites are everywhere, in the oceans, forests, deserts, even own digestive system and genome.  They take a variety of shapes and sizes:  from tiny viruses and protozoa, to roundworms, flatworms and tapeworms, to parasitic insects like mites and ticks, to epiparasites which parasitize other parasites.  Parasites are everywhere.  (The slime mold, Plasmodium, actually caused the human genome changes in an attempt to defend against malaria.) 

They have even been seen in our own government and are called “lobbyists.”  They do nothing except bride crooked politicians to enact laws and regulations favorable to the corporations they represent at the expense of the general welfare of the public or the environment.    

Now we learn that not only our tongues are covered with flora, parasitic and benign bacteria, but our speech as well.  That’s a mouthful.  I actually think so.

P.S. I hate to tell you this, but when you repeatedly and continually hear the word “Actually” you’ll say to yourself, “Boy, Rich Goscicki was right.”  Time to pick up an ebook of Mirror Reversal on Kindle or Smashwords.com to learn more about memetics.

 

 

 

 

 

Views: 120

Tags: Goscicki, memetics

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Comment by Luara on August 12, 2013 at 7:28pm

what about the reporter who says, “I’m actually here in downtown Boston”  He works for a Boston newspaper or TV station, so why does he this person have to inform us he/she is not somewhere else.

That doesn't fit with the "contrary to what something else might imply” meaning of "actually", unless there was something else the reporter said or someone else said that suggested that the reporter wasn't in Boston. 

I once knew an editor whose job it was to “tighten” various articles

It's probably common for people to use a lot of padding-words, verbal harrumphs, not something idiosyncratic to me. 

Awhile ago I noticed that writing stuff on the internet - which I felt was in many ways wasting time - actually has taught me a lot about clear expository writing.  Because of the interaction, I learned how to write so people would understand. 

Comment by Richard Goscicki on August 12, 2013 at 5:18pm

I edit out the verbal fuzz and padding afterwards,

I once knew an editor whose job it was to “tighten” various articles that passed by his desk.  He’d delete and edit out all the padding and frills.

“At the present time” I’m feeling great, becomes, “I feel great.”

Or, at the airport, “the boarding process will begin now,” changes to, “you can enter the plane now.” 

 

I once knew an editor whose job it was to “tighten” various articles that passed by his desk.  He’d delete and edit out all the padding and frills.

 

“At the present time” I’m feeling great, becomes, “I feel great.”

 

Or, at the airport, “the boarding process will begin now,” changes to, “you can enter the plane now.” 

 

Concernig your other comment, "Actually" means "contrary to what something else might imply,”  what about the reporter who says, “I’m actually here in downtown Boston”  He works for a Boston newspaper or TV station, so why does he this person have to inform us he/she is not somewhere else.  If he worked for the NY Times, and covered the story in downtown Boston, I guess you’re right. 

 

 

 

Comment by Luara on August 12, 2013 at 10:18am

When I write things online, I edit out the verbal fuzz and padding afterwards, to say as concisely as I can, what I mean. 

A long time ago I read "no need to say 'I think' this and that ... if you're saying it, clearly that is what you think".  That stuck in my mind, along with an anti-padding policy.  But when I talk, the verbal fuzz is there, it's a learned habit coming from being intimidated a lot when I was a child. 

Comment by Alan Perlman on August 11, 2013 at 1:52pm

Rich,

Your argument is right on, but actually is one of four of what I call "push-words."   Along with fact(ual), real(ly), and true/truth/truly, it pushes the listener to accept what's being said/written as, well, reality. 

Why push-words? There are so many ways to vacillate, bullshit, prevaricate, and shade (or completely abandon) truth and accuracy, that the person who throws push-words at you is trying exrtra hard to get you to accept what he/she says as true.  Often the opposite effect is achieved: too many push-words actually (there it is again!) subvert credibility.

Comment by Luara on August 11, 2013 at 11:03am

"Actually" means "contrary to what something else might imply".  As in, "The weather forecast predicted a nice sunny day today, but actually it's raining outside". 

I haven't actually :) heard "actually" used as a padding-word. 

A lot of human communication is subtext.  The surface meaning of what people say is only part of what's communicated.  So if you interpret what people say literally you are leaving out a lot. 

The subtext of "actually" might be to assert one's identity, one's difference from other people. 

Used as a padding-word, it sounds like a word a teenager would use.  Teenagers are developing their adult identity and often insecure about being themselves, so that makes sense.  

Comment by booklover on August 11, 2013 at 10:00am

Now I'm going to be listening for anyone talking to use these words.  It's going to drive me crazy! lol.  I hate "continue on."  Really?  How can you "continue off?" I'm actually going to go continue on drinking my awesome coffee now. ;)

Comment by The Flying Atheist on August 10, 2013 at 10:55pm
So, like, when I first starting reading what you wrote, I was like, "This is so gay." But by the end I actually thought, "Wow, he's fuckin' right about that."
You litteraly are one cool dude.
Comment by Richard Goscicki on August 10, 2013 at 5:59pm

Thanks, ladies.  Quite so, Loren.  There's a million of them, verbal ticks, you know what'm sayin?    

"Awesome" is a meme all right.  How come you rarely hear a senior citizen using it, unless he/she is talking to somebody much younger?  Let's look at the memetic hook, the benefit the host gets for accepting the meme, the awe-inspiring individual is young, "with it" and hip.  

Comment by Loren Miller on August 10, 2013 at 5:01pm

"Actually" and its relatives get a workout, sure, but is there another word so blatantly, ridiculously overused as "awesome"?!?

Comment by Patricia on August 10, 2013 at 3:14pm

Good stuff Rich!

Another is...."basically", used for every other word it seems at times.

As a Canadian, I am not one of these, "eh" people, but it's heard everywhere!

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