I love studying language and languages. Language is a wonderful tool to master our every-day communication; and since we don’t always agree with one another, language provides us with the ability to say one thing whilst we mean quite the opposite.
• “I don’t mean to patronise you, but…” I think it is a turkish proverb that goes along the lines of: “If there is a “but” in a message, everything that comes before it is worthless.” So true, so true.
This was recently demonstrated by a man who approached me as I was standing at a crossroads patiently waiting for the signal from the traffic lights. “I don’t mean to patronise you, but would you like a hand crossing the road?” I know, that was very nice of him but not well thought through. Although I am blind I got to that place somehow without help. I stood at the pedestrian crossing facing in the correct direction. I did not look in any way as if I was looking for help. So what does the above statement imply? “I don’t mean to patronise you, but I’ll do it anyway.” If you don’t want to patronise me then don’t patronise me, please!
• “I’m not trying to be smart.” Have you ever noticed that this statement is one of the best indicators that there is a smart comment around the corner?
• “I’m just saying!” If we feel that we have to emphasise a previous illocutionary act, i.e. we have to say that we were saying something, would it perhaps be wise to check whether the original message had any content? If it had, our opposite would have heard and considered it.
• “I was only trying to help!” This is an easy one to interpret. The opposite of “helping” is “trying to help”. The louder a person shouts: “I was only trying to help!”, the less helpful they actually were.
they would not have had to make clear that they had the intention to help, otherwise.