Thursday, February 21, 2013

Don’t abuse the adverb “though”

Many Americans abuse the adverb though by gratuitously adding it to a response to a question:
Person A: What’s your son majoring in?

Person B: He’s majoring in electrical engineering. He’s doing really well, though.

It’s natural for a proud parent to report, even without direct prompting, that his child is doing well in college. However, B’s addition of though suggests an irrational subtext: B imagines that A asked the question maliciously, in order to set up an opportunity to say that B’s son has chosen too difficult a major for him.

To defend his child against this imagined attack, B uses though to insinuate, “And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking electrical engineering is a tough major. Well, it is. But in spite of that, he’s doing just fine, Mr. Smarty Pants.”

B senses that such a direct statement would immediately warn A that B is irrational, so B resorts to insinuation in an attempt to somehow make his point without revealing his irrationality.

It seems to me that many Americans, chiefly women, frequently use insinuation to defend themselves against imagined threats, criticisms and disagreements. Intelligent listeners see through the insinuation and head for the exits.

The Takeaway: Many speakers use the adverb though sneakily. It is all too easy to unconsciously absorb and imitate this habit. Always try to think before you speak.

See disclaimer.

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