Personal Linguistics

I’m a writer. I work with words. But like anyone else, I also need to use them in everything else I do. Also like everyone else I have particular go-to phrases or words to express or indicate certain concepts and feelings. That isn’t to say I never use alternatives, because I do. Yet everyday speech is not the same as one’s writing. At least it shouldn’t be. I got to thinking about my own go-to phrases-ones that I either use everyday, or ones that I always use in a specific circumstance. I’ve compiled a list of 16 of my go-to expressions.

The list is of course not exhaustive. And as you will see, most of the phrases are not unique, and are in fact commonplace. But the voice of a person is made up not so much of the unusual turns of phrase they employ at times, but of the well used, obvious, simple linguistics they adopt on a daily basis. Any one of these phrases is pretty common. But consider them all together and a pattern emerges that gives one an idea of how I talk in most every day situations.

One also must consider the spin someone may put on a phrase. How it may differ somewhat from the original usage. The context in which one would use a certain word.

Personal language is also about what we don’t say. Some would use “idiot” as I frequently do, but rarely use “moron”, which I hardly ever do. They mean essentially the same thing in modern times…why do I prefer one over the other? Do I even know?

This was a fun exercise for me, and I hope some of you will do it for your own personal language. You can even ask others who know you well what some of your common expressions are.

Now, here are 16 of mine:

“Bogus.”

Though it technically refers to something that is fake, I tend to use this word a lot to point out something that defies logic or fairness. A lousy waitress expecting a large tip is bogus. Casting your own wife in every show you direct is bogus.

“Clown”

A description of many different types of people. Usually, but not always, some sort of incompetence is present, to which the subject is apparently oblivious.

“Jackass”.

Technically a cleaner replacement for “asshole”, I don’t see the two words as the same. In short, most jackasses to me are clowns that are also bitter and/or arrogant, but just as incompetent.

“Dancing Bear”

I use this one to describe people or situations that are all style and no substance. Or when that is what people expect from me. “Dog and pony show” is also used in similar contexts.

“Well done. There you go. It is what it is.”

All self-explanatory, but I use them on a daily basis, multiple times

“That’ll do.”

Almost exclusively when I want something unpleasant or annoying to cease.

“That’ll do it.”

Very similar to the previous phrase, but totally different context. It means, “It’s completed.” Ironically I use it most often when something long or complicated is over, as opposed to something fast and simple, which is the context most people employ, I think. Usually the first thing I say at the end of a run of a play I’m in.

“I don’t know the answer to that.”

Sounds common and easy enough, but most people would probably just say, “I don’t know”. I do that too, but just as often I use this extended expression.

“Witless”.

Probably my deepest insult, at least as it pertains to creative endeavors. Things can be “stupid” and still be funny. There is a certain wit to a type of stupidity. But if I deem something “witless”, I’m saying that it is 100% lacking in redeeming qualities, despite being created by people who ought to be better at what they do. Especially true when it’s abundantly clear that the creator is trying to impress or amuse, or has impressed/amused themselves. Probably what most people would call “retarded”, but I avoid that term, as it’s usually offensive.

“Magnificent”.

On the other side of the spectrum, this is my rarest compliment. The highest praise I can place on a creation. “Perfect” would also be here, but I’m known to use “perfect” sarcastically. I rarely use “magnificent” in such a way. If I am moved, it is usually “magnificent”

“That makes sense.”

My go-to response when literally what someone is saying makes sense to me, but I have no particular response to it.

“Screw that noise.”

“The hell with that,” basically. “Noise” being a term for inconvenient or unpleasant truths and situations. Used to be used in that context decades ago on a regular basis. Making a bit of a come back lately, I think. I saw it from an old TV show years ago, and have used it regularly since. I use the “f word”, but not with this phrase. Has to be “screw”.

“Boot him in the sack.”

Vulgar, yes. But it’s something I’ve found I want to do to guys I detest, but probably don’t belong in jail yet. And yes, its “boot” not “kick” and “sack” not “balls.” Just the way it came about, I guess. i have no equivalent for women I despise, other than perhaps “rip her hair out”, and even that doesn’t carry the same weight.

“Yammering”.

My preferred expression for rambling or prattling.

So there are 13 of my go-to expressions. What are some of yours?

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7 Comments

  1. mehnaz

    I say, “I know, eh.” but maybe that’s because I’m Canadian?

    Also, “Nice one” in reference to something somebody did like: “Today, I got a free coffee at Tim Hortons!” “Nice one.”

    Lastly, “Mother of Mercy” in exasperation, like “Mother of Mercy! I can’t believe we have to do this all over again!”

    • That is probably Canadian in nature, Mehnaz, but at present it’s hard to envision you saying it. But I like it. =)

  2. I say “Son of a biscuit!” a lot. And if I’m exasperated enough, I use the full expression: “Son of a biscuit-eating bulldog!”

    I honestly have no idea where or how I came up with that, but I say it all the time. I don’t have an issue swearing, but I usually default to biscuit instead of bitch.

    • I’m kinda like J. Lea. To echo her comment, I often say “son of a diddly!” because it reminds me of Ned Flanders from The Simpsons.

      But every once in a while, I’ll say “Ballsack!” with the emphasis on the “balls” haha. I say this when I’m more upset than the “son of a diddly.”

      • Love all of these. Especially when we aren’t aware of just why exactly we say what we say.

  3. This is a bit of an Australianism but when someone asks you to do something or tells you about something you wouldn’t dream of doing I say “yeh…….. Nah” meaning yeh I get what you mean but Nah I am so not going to do it.

    This isn’t particularly unusual but when something goes well or looks good I will say “Awesome!” where that got funny was when we had a Japanese exchange student staying with us for a few weeks. Her English was better than most of her classmates but not so good you could have a two hour conversation about Eastern versus Western work ethics. After she had been living with us for about two weeks my daughter caught her saying “Awesome!” to something. We all thought it was freaking hilarious!!

    • It all becomes even more interesting when we learn of personal expressions in other countries. Especially when that other country speaks the same language technically, though practically it is quite different in many ways.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your own little linguistic tendencies!

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