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Friday, October 2, 2009

"I don't mean to...."

Today is the day that the host city for the 2016 Olympics will be decided, between Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, and Madrid. Evidently the prospect of a home Games is so exciting that Fox Network will enter the bidding for the Games -- but only if Chicago wins.

This morning Rupert Murdoch, chairman of Fox, was quoted in the paper: "I don't want to call anybody a liar, but no one's ever made any money out of it."

(NBC has claimed in the past to have turned a profit on the Games.)

Why do people, even those as sophisticated and worldly as Rupert Murdoch, so often start a sentence by disowning their very clear intentions? Obviously, he wanted to call NBC a liar, otherwise he wouldn't have said what he did.

How often do people say, "I don't mean to interrupt, but..." and then do exactly that?

How often have you heard someone say, "I don't mean to be rude, but...." and then be rude?

How often do people "disguise" their boast by prefacing their statement with, "I don't mean to toot my own horn, but...."

How do you react when you hear, "I don't mean to impose, but...."? Do you wince?

It's not as if these speakers are fooling anybody. Who actually concludes that you didn't mean to interrupt as you rudely butted in?

But it must fool someone, otherwise people wouldn't use this formulation all the time.

Maybe you should try it sometime.

You could visit a bank and say, "I don't mean to stick you up, but hand over all your money right now," before you stick a gun in the teller's face. At the trial, your defense could be, but I said I didn't mean to hold her up.

It would be as credible as Rupert et al.

I don't mean to be insulting, but people who speak this way are silly morons.


Anonymous said...

Do you ever do something that you know isn't quite right but do it anyway? it's just a form of apology. You can say "I don't mean to interrupt" or "sorry for interrupting" means the same, has the same effect. In Rupert's defense, one can't always say straight out what's on one's mind.
I we did, there would be no politicians(I would not mind this one) and the world would be a bigger mess than it already is.

John Craig said...

Anonymous -- Thanks for your comment. You're right, it is sort of a semi-apology. Still, it sounds dumb to me. If you're goign to interrupt, saying "sorry for interrupting" is far better than saying you don't mean to do it.

Anyway, judging from this post, I guess I'm turning into Andy Rooney. (I honestly don't mean to do that.)