I just read an article in the paper today critiquing the phrase, “Really?” and its overuse in popular culture. First of all, as a frequent user of the phrase, I’ll attempt to mount a defense. I’d also like to say, “Really?” but apparently it’s being used too much, it’s cheapening the English language, it’s destroying our culture. I’d like to say it again right here. But I won’t. I won’t indulge those who find the phrase too low-class, too pedestrian. Besides, instead of actually going ahead saying, “Really?” I’ll just write, “I’d really like to say ‘Really?’” This is great because it really adds a lot of words and sentences to my writing, which I’m always in a desperate need of.
The arguments against “Really?” besides what I already mentioned above, are that’s it’s a way for lazy people to communicate snarky sarcasm without actually having to think up something intelligent to say. I’m sorry, but isn’t that a good thing? Shouldn’t we all be getting to the point where we can transmit vast quantities of information without having to waste so much breath? It’s like the Internet. It’s like emoticons. It’s like the Smart Car. That’s what the spirit of today is all about. I’d write the word zeitgeist here, but I’ve noticed way too many so called newspapermen throwing around Germanic words in the past few years, and quite frankly, I’m a little disappointed.
But, ahem, really? When I’m talking to somebody, I want it to be as short and sweet as possible. The only things that I like to be longish are these blog posts, because I can look at them and think to myself, “Wow Rob, you really did it. You really typed up a lot of stuff here.” And that’s including my use of the phrase, “Really?” I’m reading back into my archives, and I’m noticing that I use the phrase at least once a blog post, once a paragraph if it’s a really good one.
So I’m reading this article and I’m just boiling over with rage, thinking to myself, there’s no possible way that whoever wrote this could add to the insult. But he does. He goes on in the later paragraphs to make fun of some of my other trademark phrases, like “Seriously?” and “Honestly!” What a jerk.
The author’s name is Neil Genzlinger. I only put that in because I wrote the author as a he and I didn’t want the reader to think that I’m just assuming all newspapermen are men. Also, I hope that Neil is one of those journalists who has a Google alert set up for his own name, and he’ll get an email when this goes up and he’ll be like, “Really? I’ve never heard about this web site. Hmm,” before he opens it up, and the title is just going to be, “Really?” And his face is going to get all red. “I hate that phrase!” he’ll shout and his significant other will be like, “Neil! What did I tell you about screaming at your iPad!” and he’ll be like, “Honey! What did I tell you about calling my Samsung Galaxy Smart Tablet an iPad!” and the significant other will be like, “You know what? I’m not doing this anymore. I’m staying at my mother’s tonight,” and Neil will be like, “Really?”
And I’ll have won, because it’s not a bad phrase. It’s great. It’s got just the right mix of tone and brevity, which I actually like to call briefness, because it’s much more a word of the people than brevity, but I don’t want to give Mr. Genzlinger any more ammo for his award winning commentaries on modern American English and its misuse by the unsophisticated mob of public that makes up contemporary society. And besides, you know why I’m getting so upset here? It’s not that I’ve gotten called out as being one of countless lazy writers who uses the phrase “Really?” when he can’t think of anything smarter to say. No, I’m getting pissed off because I actually invented and pioneered the use of the phrase. Seriously. I really did. Honestly.
What kind of evidence do I have to back up such a bold claim? I have a ton of evidence. But I’m not going to stoop down to Neil’s level of gotcha journalism. No, I’ll let him sit at his desk, stewing in his own sense of smug self satisfaction, thinking that he’s won. But I did invent it. I really did. And if anybody should be writing an article about the overuse of the phrase, it should be me. I should be writing it. Because it’s mine, and everybody else is just copying me. I started it. When I use it, it’s great. When everyone else uses it, it loses all of its characteristic zing. And so maybe I will write that article. I’ll write about how everyone who uses the phrase, “Really?” is just a huge poser. And in this list of everybody, I’ll include in it my good friend Neil and his article as just another example of some lazy writer who couldn’t think of anything to write about that day, and so he just picked out one of my most popular phrases and tried to piggyback his way into the editorial hall-of-fame.