Do you know anyone who uses a particular word -- or phrase -- regularly, and you can almost predict when it's coming? I know I'm guilty. I go through catch words or phrases, knowing I use them too frequently, and yet I'm unable to stop myself from uttering them.
I don't mean swear words, although I've been guilty of using those too, particularly when UGA fumbles the ball deep in their own territory and it leads to a touchdown.
I have a dear, dear friend (who is unaware of this blog's existence) who says "... and all..." to finish up random statements. As in, "We're coming up to go tailgating, and all, and we hope we get to see y'all. And all." Okay, maybe that's a little extreme. I don't know that she uses it twice in the same sentence. But a lot.
The sheriff of the town where I grew up had the strangest catch phrase I've ever heard. He dotted his conversation with the phrase, "there on it...." Like the time I went to visit my brother in jail after school one day, not knowing that brother (a most trusted trustee) had gotten into some degree of trouble, which may or may not have had something to do with the "escape" of another inmate who, according to my brother, "sumbitch swore he'd come back." The sheriff met me at the door that day, informing me that, "You can come back Sunday, there on it, when we have visiting hours. There on it." I wanted to say, "There on WHAT?" but I didn't want to get thrown into the same cell with my brother. And the sheriff was a big man.
I became aware of my own propensity for using the same words in similar situations when I was teaching in a traditional high school. Apparently I frequently ended statements to my students, particularly stern lectures, with a period. Not just the punctuation mark. The word "period." For instance, I might be warning students that projects were due. "And I won't accept any of them late. Period." I was scolding them one day, back in the day before I realized you really don't have to yell to get your point across, probably something along the lines of, "I said that you need to pay attention. And do your work." And before I could say another word, about half the class, in unison, said, "Period." There was a long pause while the other half of the class held its collective breath. And then I couldn't help it. I burst out laughing. Never let it be said that I don't know how to make fun of myself.
Sometimes the person using a catch word KNOWS he or she does it, and it becomes sort of a joke to do it anyway. My friend Wilson had been told he used the word "apparently" too much. So he started using it every chance he got. "Apparently," he said, "people think I use the word 'apparently' too much." I have picked up that habit from him, and now everything that isn't obvious is at least apparent.
When I was teaching at a high school where I was also the yearbook adviser, I picked up the word "clearly" from one of my students. He got me started using that word too, and then it became a joke. He wasn't one of my yearbook staff members, but they became aware of our game with the word "clearly," and they picked it up. When it was time to pick yearbook covers, I got all excited because one of the trendy things that year was to have a beautiful title page for the yearbook with a transparent Lucite cover that allowed it to show through. We were struggling with a theme for that year, and I begged the students to consider the Lucite cover and the theme "Clearly...." They voted ... no, shouted ... me down. Punks.
One of those same staff members, the girl who was my editor and is now a teacher herself, uses the word "nice" a lot. Usually when she means something isn't. As in, "You mean we lose three days from our pay before Christmas? Nice."
I also tend to overuse the word "absolutely." Only I went through a phase that could have gotten me in trouble at school, because for a while it became "abso-damn-lutely."
It's probably time for me to go through my closet of catch phrases and donate some of them to a charity. I need some new phrases.