It's only words. Well, if you feel that way, you're banned from using them.

As a great man once said: “it’s only words, but words are all I have to take your heart away”. Oh, hang on. It was Boyzone, wasn’t it? Bollocks. Still, the fact remains that a large part of that dross has substance. Words are the greatest tool we have, and the only real way we can interact with the human scum around us, or people, if you prefer.

They can be used to bring joy where there is pain, to strike a match of purest merry in the persistent darkness of life. We use them on a regular basis, in everyday type situations, like telling a loved one how much they mean to us or listing the many reasons everything will probably end badly. Most of the time we don’t even know why we’re using the words that we are, we just are. We don’t think about it, we just open our mouths and out comes the discourse. Which is just as well because if we had to actually, really consider what we were discussing, we probably wouldn’t bother.

So, it’s a good thing then? Well, no, not entirely and I shall explain (as, presumably, you were expecting). The lack of thought breeds a subculture of bullshit. Over the centuries, we as a people, have created some incredibly stupid and vastly irritating stock phrases. The sort of thing you whip out when you either want to appear mysterious, intelligent and philosophical, or can’t really be arsed to say anything at all, but feel you should. You may think it’s not a big deal, but you may also say ‘lol’ like it’s a word, so forgive me if I completely ignore you.

Imagine, if you will, that a tragedy has befallen you. Your dog has been kidnapped or your children have worms. You arrive at work, go about your business in a less-cheery-than-usual manner, and eventually somebody will ask you what’s up. After you explain why Grandma’s hip popped out or how your heart as been ripped apart by some banshee, they will turn to you, head tilted slightly to one side, and say something like “how awful etc, but at least lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place”. Well. Um. Thanks. But firstly, that’s not true, and secondly if it were true – which we’ve established it isn’t – it wouldn’t apply to my situation unless I were lightning, or had been struck by it. Which I am not, nor have I been. So actually, what the Hell are you doing? If you can’t think of anything to say, just don’t. And while we’re at it, worse things almost certainly do happen at sea, but I couldn’t give a rat’s testicle because I’m not at sodding sea, and frankly I’m unlikely to be any time soon. If I am to drown, it shall be in my own tears.

I have nothing to fear but fear itself – Yes, obviously. That’s how fear works isn’t it, but I am no less terrified. You have been no help, no help at all.

A stitch in time saves nine – You mean to tell me that if I mend something now, it will remain not broken. Insightful.

Many a slip twixt cup and lip – No, I don’t get it. Oh, I see – there’s time and external factors at play, between cup on table and cup delivering to mouth, and things could happen. Hadn’t thought of that.

All that glistens is not gold – True, because of Kit-Kat foil and crisp packets and, y’know, loads of stuff.

Empty vessels make the most noise – Yes, I think you’re proving that quite thoroughly, you blithering fool.

Too many cooks spoil the broth – Of course they do. Too many fruit pastilles smother the toddler, because there are too many of them, that’s why it’s too many. Cooks are no different, they don’t bend the laws of too many. Too many is too many. Duh.

You can take a horse to water, but can’t make him drink – You probably could, but it would attract the attention of the RSPCA and involve a length of hose. This applies to people, except swap the hose for a gun. Don’t ‘swap it out’, that doesn’t mean anything. Just swap it.

Look before you leap – I have. I reckon from this height I’ll hit the pavement before you can finish your sentence, which means I won’t have to hear it. Weeeeeeeeeeeeee!

I have discussed these phrases, and many like them, with some people. People just like you and me. Well, me. We all agreed that these nonsense sayings fall into two categories: obvious or utter horse shit. There’s room for overlap of course, to allow for the lucky few that manage to be both, but other than that it’s common sense or complete pants. It’s easier to offer a platitude than to consider the situation, decide whether or not you have something to say, and act accordingly. It’s a kind of laziness to rattle off an empty, meaningless statement, where an opinion is usually sought. It’s not done consciously or with any malice, but that only makes it worse. At least if you were trying to insult me, I’d have a reason to want to beat you to death with your useless tongue. Perhaps it’s done in kindness, an acknowledgement of an awareness that everything has got so awful there’s no point trying. Which is sweet, isn’t it. But instead of that, yeah, how about don’t.

I’m all for a bit of flowery language and I don’t mind creative use of it to illustrate a point. I love an exaggerated story or a tale of hurt and destruction. Perks me right up, a bit of hurt and destruction. However, if you turn to a suffering fellow person – having heard that their wife has left them, taken both the children and left them with the dog – and suggest that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, you are a pillock. Yes you are. You’re a pillock. Tell them that that’s dreadful, tell them you don’t know what to say, tell them about the time that happened to you and that it hurts for a while, but after a few months you set fire to her house, and after the court case and the counselling it gets a lot easier, and the pills are really helping. Tell them something. Engage your brain and have a conversation, engage with their brain and interact with another world of thoughts. Or just shut up.


Oh. Ok.


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