Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The worst words

A number of years ago, when the grandchildren were in their teens, we were talking about some long-forgotten subject, that caused me to comment: "you know what I think are the four worst words in the English language: " I think you should.'" It gets under my skin for anyone to think he/she knows better than the person to whom they are speaking, what the person should do. What is wrong with "Would it be a good idea?" or "what if you try x or y".

A grandson spoke up to add that his worst words were "shut up". He hadn't heard it at home, I'm sure. Those words were also verboten in our house. It was a contemporary, with bad manners. And then another grandchild added, "I think the worst words are ' you dirty liar'".

Which lead us all to the worst sentence: "I think you should shut up, you dirty liar," a families' words of wisdom that is exactly what the family does not believe.

I think it is a kind of funny anecdote, worth blogging about. I'm sure every family has words they choose  to live by, by not using them.

And I need to push the "dislike" button for one of my "heard on TV" phrases. There are weather men, when referring to an area, say "And that's where the tornado touched down at." Edwin Newman, we miss you.

Thank you, again and again, for your kind reponses to my BBC video. I wish I could answer each and everyone. I think I shoud--- but I cannot, But I have read and relish every single one. You are eloquent and kind... and there a quite a few of you! 


  1. Very thought-provoking, as the phrase 'I think you should..' seems quite innocuous until you analyse the implications behind it. Thank you!

    And I also read another blogger's 'overheard comment' today, which somehow seems linked to your family conversations:

    Overheard this morning

    girl of about 6 years old: "Mum, when I'm a lady will I still have to be nice to people I don't like?"

    Mother: "Probably"

    Girl of about 6 years old: "this rule is stupid"

  2. Yes, there are many of us.. but only ONE UNIQUE YOU! :D

    'I think you should' hmmm.. a thought provoking topic. I am sure I am guilty of it - at least occasionally. OK.. t'is BANNED henceforth from my lips! :D I do try to put things the best way possible. It just doesn't always come out the way one wants... :D

    My pet word of annoyance is HATE. I really do not like it when people say the word so flippantly. That gets under my skin.. 'I hate strawberries', 'I hate that TV programme' etc.. It is such a strong emotion, a vehement word and really, when push comes to shove.. it is really very hard to truly hate anything.

    I too, learnt from a late friend, Muriel, (bless her soul), the joy of giving compliments and allowing yourself to receive them graciously. It always surprises me how many fellow women, do not quite know how to take a compliment...but I know that they appreciate it. I try to find something complimentary to say each day also - at least one thing to each person that I meet..and I always say thank you. In fact, I have been told I say it way too much. However, things like that really matter to me.

    I ran a short blog about you the other day, which in turn got added to my facebook page.


    What are your views on emoticons btw? :D

    With Love from Lapland, Michelle x

  3. Your blog was referenced in another that I read last night. I've since gone back and read each of your entries; no matter the subject, I smiled. I could hear that fire in your belly - and I could see a twinkle in your eye. (which, incidently, was just verified as I watched the BBC video).

    I have a grandmother who just turned 98 in May; she's never really embraced any technology (will not own an answering machine). She's still in the same house my father was raised in (which is in Des Moines) and I now live in Phoenix. Talking on the phone is difficult as she cannot hear very well. I mean, her ears are 98 & hearing loss is more than understandable - expected, even...but it does make staying connected very difficult. Her handwriting is also failing so while my kids and I will send her notes, I do miss getting a note in return.

    I want to thank you for making me take a moment to stop and think/wonder about my grandma. She will be getting a note in the next few days.

    Keep writing. I get a kick out of you! :)


  4. I am a fifty-four-year-old woman who went back to school three weeks ago to learn to be a nurse. My interests lie in gerontological and hospice nursing. I sat down for a few minutes during this morning's preparations for the dash out the door and watched your BBC video.

    Thank you. Plain and simple. You're an inspiration!

    Many Blessings :-)


  5. Aw ... "shut up" One of THE most demeaning combinations in the english language imho; an opinion my kids grew up with.

    And what to do but echo every positive sentiment shared here about you. What a shining example of the fact we're souls having a mortal experience in just ever-weathering skin ~ spirit manifesting itself in the best of ways through your words and attitude.

    Thank you......

  6. Hello Mrs Greene,

    in my humble opinion it is imperative to use suitable and nice words to describe our thoughts (or feelings)but for me the worst words in English language (which by the way I adore) come together with the use of the imperative mood because appears very offensive and inappropriate in social situations. But what do I know? I am Hellene we are normally very rude to each other!
    Best Wishes

  7. Hi Phyllis, I read about you yesterday in our State newspaper, The West Australian - you were under our WebWatch segment. So that is saying something isn't it? Your words have been loved and appreciated as far away as Australia! I love your writing, and I was so pleased to watch and listen to you on the BBC video interview. Wow! Another reason to be ever grateful for the world wide web! And Phyllis, my day is already wonderful for having 'met' you... thank you so much :) Kind regards, Chris

  8. Hi Phyllis. Me too! That is, I also read about you in my local newspaper, The West Australian. I had hoped to be the first to tell you that you are now known here in the Land Down Under...but Chris beat me to it! The newspaper reporter wrote a brief outline about you and your blog and finished his article with these words (which I heartily agree with)..."A lover of language and a wit with a fine turn of phrase, this great-grandmother's blog is a pearl among so much dross in the blogosphere".

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts Phyllis. I love reading them.

  9. Phyllis,

    I stumbled upon your blog thanks to my sister-in-law and I love reading it.

    Your honesty and integrity is beautiful. I feel like I'm listening to my own Grandma when I read your blog. It makes me feel happy.

    This post was my favorite by far. I have tried to remove "should" from my vocabulary. There is really no good that can come from that word! It just puts guilt on yourself or someone else. No one needs that.

    No response is necessary. I hope you enjoy a nice smile from my message... I have smiled many times reading yours!

    Sending you lots of love from California,


  10. The one word that stops me in my tracks, no matter where I hear it, is the word 'useless'.

    Long may we all remain useful...:-)