Is this you? Sentence starting
I’m going to get right to it. Nothing good can come of a conversation when your first sentence begins with, “Okay, don’t get mad — but …” Right off the bat the little hairs on the back of your neck show some sign of life by standing straight up. When someone says to you, “Don’t get mad,” there’s about a 99 percent chance that what they are about to say makes you mad, and probably mad as a wet hen without a comb. To take it one step further, if you hear, “Okay, don’t get upset — but …” you might as well get it into your head you’re going to get upset. Probably upset enough to lose some sleep no matter how many sheep are waiting on your pillow to be counted.
There are several of these sentence beginnings that should be avoided. “Okay, don’t get all excited, but …” “Okay, don’t let this ruin your day, but …” “Okay, don’t let me rain on your parade, but …” just to name a few.
I have been on both ends of these sentence startings Experience has taught me whether you’re delivering or receiving them, there’s zero chance of a good outcome. I must admit, I have delivered way more than I have received. For instance —
“Okay, hon, don’t get mad but, I just found your wallet — in the washing machine — again.” Or, “Okay, don’t get upset, but that extra money we were saving for vacation will have to go toward fixing the garage door that for some reason didn’t go all the way up before I backed the truck out of the garage. And by the way, do you know how much a new camper shell costs?”
Then there was, “Okay, husband of mine, don’t get all excited, but the tractor wheel has this liquid stuff coming out of it and it looks a little flat.” In my defense, this one was not my fault. The tractor wheel rusted through, causing the liquid stuff that’s put into tractor tires to add weight and traction to the tractor, to leak out. It just so happened it started to leak at the same time I was using the tractor to move some dirt to fill in a hole the dog had dug in the garden — again. So this one was not my fault. Neither was the hole the dog dug, unless you count the fact I left the garden gate open — again. Digging a little further.
In retrospect I have come up with this. It’s the word but that seems to be the problem. But it has a sneaky way of splitting a sentence that should be wonderful into a sentence that, well, isn’t so wonderful. Like, “I love you, but …” Or, “No, that dress doesn’t make you look like you just fell off the turnip truck, but …”
See? If the word “but” was banned, these types of sentences would have no chance of finishing. But of course there’s nearly always a “but” when you are trying to explain away some mishap, misstep or misguided action. But stopping before a “but” comes out of your mouth (now there’s a unique visual!) is harder than trying to gather up an egg you’ve dropped on the kitchen floor before the dog gets there to it to slurp it up and then put that yummy looking egg back into the shell.
Of course, as in every tale, there are two sides. So therefore there are also two sides of a “but.” Like saying, “I love you, but there is no way that such a great person as you could ever love me.” Ah, see how sweet your “but” can turn out to be?
Even the washing machine “but” can be given a new slant. For instance you might say, “Now, don’t get mad I found your wallet in the washing machine — again, but now you don’t have to worry about hiding that old picture of your last girlfriend behind the picture of your mother anymore!” Now, that’s one “but” several females could possibly use!
All in all, I think we all have a “but” here and there that could use some work. We sometimes toss our “buts” around like they are just so much extra baggage. Just consider taking a few minutes each day to work on your placement of these “buts.” You might even find it’s in your best interest to only use your “but” toward good. But then again …
Trina Machacek lives in Eureka, Nevada. Her book ITY BITS can be found on Kindle. Share your thoughts and comments with her at email@example.com.