While enjoying a frosty beer in my local Irish pub on a very hot afternoon recently a fellow imbiber, originally from Massachusetts, but now a die-hard Montrealer brought up an interesting topic. We have often chatted, and share a love of words and enjoy discussing the oddities and the subtle differences in how the same language, English, is spoken in the United States and Canada. For example north of the border ‘roof’ rhymes with ‘goof’ , not rough.
He had often heard and was asking about the use of the word ‘see’ as the start of a reply, as in “See, I don’t like bananas”. This brought to my mind two other words that bother me when used similarly: look and listen.
At least with ‘see’ if it is preceded by ‘you’ the result is the good old Jack Benny style: “You see, I don’t deserve this award, but I have arthritis and I don’t deserve that either.
All too frequently I hear people in the media or in person being interviewed, politicians and various spokespersons, or just those expressing an opinion who start their statement with “Look, the fact is…” or “Listen, I know you don’t agree …”. You don’t have to ask me to see, look or listen, I am not confused, I am perfectly capable of grasping the concept of questions and answers. It is an annoying implication that one’s interlocutor considers you to be daft. Yet it can be heard all the time. Sometimes I get the impression they are emphasizing the point that what they will say next is the truth, while what went before was just obfuscation. Thankfully the notion of starting a written reply with the word “Read, I have no intention of …” has not caught on.
See, the thing is, well look, does it really matter? Listen, it does to me.