My friend Charlie loves to push my buttons. Whether it’s religion, politics, immigration or even something as mundane as language. Our latest conversation revolved around the word but. As usual Charlie was on point and drove me crazy, all the while making me laugh. In the end he always makes me think.
But. Try to have an argument without using this word. It’s nearly impossible when you are mindful of the definition. Like many words “but” is versatile. It can be used as a conjunction, preposition, noun and adverb. In addition, sentence structure can also change its meaning. What I am talking about is the most common usage. The conjunction. A word that joins two sentences or thoughts to make one. Look how clever that was. Using a conjunction to define a conjunction. Meanwhile, back to “but”. When it is used as a conjunction, the second phrase goes against the first phrase. Opposes it.
Here is an example. I was once in a friendly discussion on Facebook regarding religion and immigrants. I know most of you won’t believe me. I admit, it started out friendly. Close to the end, my former acquaintance used the term you saw above. I’m not a racist but… You know what followed. A litany of basic racist sentiments. Too often we use the word “but” in personal debates incorrectly. We want to convey to people that we respect and agree with them although (another word for but), there are other points we would like to bring into the conversation. How things come across is often more of a passive aggressive attempt to placate the other person before we launch into our own narrative. In other words “ I agree but here are all the reasons why I don’t agree”. This is basically code for “My turn to talk!”
In the end I was unfriended. Understandably that happened to me a lot during my Facebook phase. In formal debates there are winners and losers. Mainly because there is a judge as well as rules. On Facebook there are just hurt feelings, arguments based on nothing more than feelings and ultimately blocking and unfriending as well as my personal favourite, name calling. The latter reminding me of the ultimate 7 year old comeback of “Oh yeah?”
So was there a winner? And by virtue of a winner then also a loser? No. Just two people who disagree moving on with their lives. How did she deal with the termination? I have no idea. Until Facebook I hadn’t seen her in 25 years. I doubt we will cross paths in the next 25 years. As for me, I don’t know if she is a racist or not but… if it acts like a racist and talks like a racist …
In the end I have learned that words are powerful and we need to be careful how we use them. I am grateful for the people in my life who challenge me and my beliefs. Charlie is a pain in the ass sometimes but I love him. See what I did there?