LANGUAGE USAGE: “It’s almost as if….”

I’m sure you come across it a hundred times a day –“It’s almost as if….” You hear it everywhere. In The Speak-Media, or in conversations. In the World of Politics it is much used. In the World of Blog it’s over-used. Even friends use it.

Indeed, I cannot swear that I avoid it utterly myself, but I imagine I am about 98% clean. And I would be suitably mortified if you catch me out. A dollar for every time you catch me.

“It’s almost as if…”
What’s wrong with it?

In my view there are many things “wrong” with it. For a start, as a statement it’s utterly lily-livered. It makes no statement. It takes no responsibility –it suggests, it snidely presents a premise and then slides away from it if questioned: as in “I didn’t say it is. I said ‘it’s almost as if.” Sometimes this is followed with an attack on the “stupidity” of the questioner.

The epidemically wide current usage of “It’s almost as if…” suggests that it is not accidental. Of course not. It’s quite deliberate. It is –behavior. I have a strong feeling that it reflects that widespread desire to never take responsibility if it can possibly be avoided. We hear so much about values and leadership and principle, yet the main lesson is “Never admit a mistake.” If you have to, if cornered, if given no option, say “Mistakes were made.” Or as Mr. Nixon so famously advised his staff as they prepared their defence in the Watergate hearings, “You can say you can’t recall.” Witnesses have parsed it in an infinity of clever constructions, but they all amount to the same thing, and if we are sharp, they will not catch us out. If we watch what they say, we can catch them. And ourselves –don’t forget.

Mind you, there is considerable temptation to buy the line. We are, after all, only human, and –from Adan and Eve and “that business in the Garden”– avoidance of responsibility (it seems to me) is essentially what defines our human nature.
(See how much cleaner it is. I said “it seems to me”. I’m not trying to sneak by with an “It’s almost as if…”

We will return to this theme again. And –no doubt– again.
Malachi McCormick.


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