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April 13, 2003

Telltales
Posted by Teresa at 10:55 PM *

Proposition: That anyone who shows up in some online venue for the first time, collectively addresses the participants in an established conversation as “you folks”, and tells them there’s some point they’ve all missed, will infallibly turn out to be a jerk. Further, his great and brilliant point will either be stupid or elementary.

In a pinch, you can forget the other indicators and just shoot on sight anyone who turns up and collectively addresses the conversation as “you folks”. I don’t know why this class of yoyos feels compelled to say “you folks”, but I’ve been quietly tabulating instances of it here and on Electrolite, and it’s a clear marker for “I am an idiot”.

Addenda: In the comments thread, Neil observes that the “you folks” rule:
…seems equally to apply to anyone who uses the phrase “you people” in an opening post. Especially “what you (folks/people) fail to understand is…”
Soren deSelby exhibits his own collection of markers, only he’s turned his into art:
I know I won’t be very popular for saying this, but

The emperor’s naked,

and I’m not afraid to point it out.

I know what you’re going to say.

You’re just saying that because

you would say that,

of course.

What a … coincidence.

Think about it.
To which Avram replied,
Soren — Sorry, I didn’t read that, because I can’t stand exposure to new ideas.
Yeah!
Comments on Telltales:
#1 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2003, 11:12 PM:

Pre-emptively, before someone else says it: You folks are all geniuses, here and on Electrolite.

(only partly kidding about that.)

#2 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2003, 11:45 PM:

Other telltales.

Man driving car with dent: Bad driver. Wearing basbeall cap: Worse driver. Driving with window open, elbow on frame, hand on top sill, close haircut, and baseball cap -- Cop.

Hard Drive light turns off 30 seconds after you stop moving the mouse -- not enough RAM.

Story starts with "A friend of mine had a friend who.." --lie.

Story starts with "No shit, there I was..." -- lie, told in a military context.

Excuse starts with "It was the phase of the moon" -- BOFH lie. Hint -- don't call him on it.

Fuse blows, you replace it, it blows again -- It's Broken. Honest. Really. Wrapping the fuse in foil is a *BAD* idea. Honest. Trust Me.

Batter hits a foul ball straight back -- he's doped out the pitcher's velocity, and will almost certainly get on base in the next pitch.

Poster is from joe@home.com -- troll.

Erik starts being very polite -- run.

#3 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2003, 11:47 PM:

Excuse starts with "It was the phase of the moon" -- BOFH lie. Hint -- don't call him on it.

That may be a sexist lie. But I honestly don't know any female BOFHs. I'd like to. Hmm. Maybe Elizabeth Zwicky's one, but she seems to helpful to be a true BOFH.

#4 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 12:45 AM:

Erik, how about c6leen Frisch, who wrote Essential System Administration for O'Reilly?

#5 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 01:27 AM:

Hmm. I've only had the briefest contact with Æ leen Frisch, and she seemed rather nice and helpful. However, not only wrote Essential System Administration, she also wrote Essential Windows NT System Administration, which isn't exactly BOFH material. She's also a marketing consultant, and uses flash on her webpage.

This is very anti-BOFH. She's talented as all hell, and hey, anybody with a ligature in thier name is automatically cool. But I don't think she's a BOFH. Elizabeth Zwicky, however, helped href="http://www.tcsa.org/lisa2001/laws.txt"> write the laws of System Administration.

#6 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 01:28 AM:

Oops. Meant to click "preview", not "post". The linke you're looking for is here

#7 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 02:02 AM:

Elizabeth is definitely not a BOFH. More of a SCOGfO (Sarcastic & Cynical Operations Guru from Ohio).

She's worked with a few BOfHs, though. Ask me how I know. :-)

On another note, Elizabeth and Steve were working on a book expanding on the collected wisdom Erik linked to. Haven't heard anything about it recently, but one can only hope it appears soon.

-j

#8 ::: Skmr ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 06:49 AM:

xcs m, blv sd, "y nc flks," nd ws nl bng th tnst bt srcstc whn sd t. trl ws rd t lstn t yr pnt f vw n wh th ltng f msm ws wrth f trs nd th mprsnmnt f tddlrs nt s mch. Bt, s sl, y'r mr ntrstd n rhtrc thn lgc.
T.

#9 ::: Bryant ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 07:24 AM:

"I truly was ready to listen to your point of view on why the looting of a museum was worthy of tears and the imprisonment of toddlers not so much."

Where'd Teresa say that?

#10 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 07:27 AM:

Ah, Sekimori. Get out the stopwatch again. But first, thank you for reminding me of that use of "as usual" by someone who's just shown up, which is also a marker.

And in the usual way of things that reminds me of "fascinating", which when used in a short, judgemental message, by someone who's just shown up, is not an infallible sign that the person is going to be a jerk, but is certainly an indication.

Okay, now hit the start button on your stopwatch.

#11 ::: Elric ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 07:47 AM:

As usual, you folks have a fascinating series of discussions going on over here. I am, as ever, in awe.

Okay--I've said it, so no one else has to.
--Elric

#12 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 09:29 AM:

She's worked with a few BOfHs, though. Ask me how I know. :-)

Don't need to -- the email address shows remarkably bofhly traits.

Where do I know your name from? Think, think -- wait -- same J Greely who fights the good fight for Minolta gear on photo.net?

#13 ::: John Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 09:42 AM:

It may be possible to see the use of "you folks" as an indicator of a bad post, if that has been your experience.

But I think that seeing it as "a clear marker for 'I'm an idiot'" is a bit much, and reeks of predjudice against those of us who may be from the southern portion of the United States.

Of course, not all of us from the South open conversations with "you folks," but the point I'm trying to make is that I know plenty of intelligent, conscientous people who may occasionally pepper their speech (and, regretably, their comment posting) with "you folks".

John ;)

#14 ::: Adrienne Martini ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 10:26 AM:

Re: "you folks" and the Southern U.S.

This is why those of the Southern persuasion should be encouraged to use "all y'all," which is actually a very useful turn of phrase in a second-person plural situation. (Also useful, if you lean more toward Appalachia than Dixie is "all yins," but that may be a different argument.) YM, of course, MV.

Another tell that you're dealing with a troll--overuse of the word "Clearly," which is then followed by a stream of highly subjective twaddle.

#15 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 10:43 AM:

Saying "you folks" to a bunch of friends isn't a sign of a jerk. Nothing wrong with "Would you folks like to go to a movie tonight?"

Wandering into an existing conversation and addressing all present with "you folks" is a bit different: it doesn't say "you, all of whom are my friends", but "you, who are allied in something-or-other I'm not part of."

#16 ::: Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 10:53 AM:

Clearly, you folks have missed the point, as usual. Fascinating.

I am not wearing any pants.

3:26

#17 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 10:54 AM:

OK, I know what a BOF is (and am). But BOFH has me stumped, especially given the contextuals...would somebody spell it out for me?

Btw, I've been late to choir sometimes, and said "Sorry, I was up late...it was Full Moon." Now I could have started that with "It was the phase of the moon when we usually have circle..." Am I a BOFH, whatever that is?

I know I'm missing something here...begging for clarification.

#18 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 10:55 AM:

Oh and that use of "you folks" reminds me of Perot's use of "you people." Emphasizing non-identification with a group is intrinsically unfriendly.

#19 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 11:10 AM:

BOFH - Bastard Operator From Hell

It's a computing term.

see The Register for recent, inferior examples of the genre, and here for the definitive examples of the genre.

#20 ::: Neil Gaiman ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 11:11 AM:

I was about to say that Teresa's rule seems equally to apply to anyone who uses the phrase "you people" in an opening post.

Especially "what you (folks/people) fail to understand is..."

#21 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 11:12 AM:

Folks,

Let's look at what TNH said...

I don92t know why this class of yoyos feels compelled to say 93you folks94, but I92ve been quietly tabulating instances of it here and on Electrolite, and it92s a clear marker for 93I am an idiot94.

Note that she doesn't claim that people saying "you folks" in the world at large are automatically idiots. She's saying that people who say "you folks" in the message boards here and on Electolite are most likely trolling or freepers, and is basing this on emperical evidence. (I must warn that correllation != caustation, here, but most here know this.)

It's a standard trope, too -- close related to "you people," as in "if you people love Saddam so much...."

Now, the bit about the short hair, arm in window, and baseball cap = cop? That's gospel.

#22 ::: Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 12:23 PM:

I always thought that driving with arm in open window was simply an attempt to mask deodorant failure.

#23 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 12:23 PM:

Just so, Neil. Just so, Erik.

This started when my "repeating trope" switch got flipped by seeing two "you folks" comments in one 24-hour period, one in Electrolite and one in Making Light, from two demonstrably different jerks. After that I was watching for further instances.

There've been more than enough to confirm my suspicions. I'd been thinking of posting that observation for the last month or so, but hadn't gotten around to it until Skmr reminded me.

The rules about "not previously seen here" and "pretends to be administering correction to the entire conversation" will eliminate just about all innocent uses of "just folks", though anyone who can't distinguish those on their own is ... um ... not my species, so I don't know what more I can add. But "you people" is clearly a variant. Or maybe "you folks" is the variant.

Hard to say. Easy to spot.

#24 ::: spacewaitress ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 12:41 PM:

I've seen the "you folks" = "random stranger coming in to troll us all" phenomenon on my humble blog as well, so I can concur with TNH's observation.

#25 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 01:08 PM:

Yup, that's me, Erik, although I passed on the photo.net job some time ago (when it, pardon the phrase, "sold out"), and the new guy doesn't seem to have updated anything. Oh, well, at least I left behind something less depressing than what I found.

And on the BOfH-scale, I was actually thinking of our (EDZ's and mine, that is) mutual former co-worker who blew off the server backups for six months, ordering a junior contractor to stall restore requests while he worked on something else.

I, of course, have abandoned my BOfHly past and made the leap to Bearded Wizard Who Telecommutes.

...who is suddenly glad that more than a decade of arguing on Usenet has apparently burned out my "you folks" gland, although I do still have a strong case of the Actuallys. But only after I've spent half an hour with Google confirming that I'm right. :-)

-j

#26 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 01:18 PM:


Yup, that's me, Erik, although I passed on the photo.net job some time ago (when it, pardon the phrase, "sold out"), and the new guy doesn't seem to have updated anything.

I noticed the general degredation of the site (I've currently lost my photo-muse, I'm trying to get it back. Unemployment and housework aren't helping.)

And on the BOfH-scale, I was actually thinking of our (EDZ's and mine, that is) mutual former co-worker who blew off the server backups for six months, ordering a junior contractor to stall restore requests while he worked on something else.

Sheesh and Fruufr. I acquired a rep when I walked over to a user's desk, and handed them a CD with thier mail archive on it. I'd noticed thier backup had run much quicker the night before (Well, first, I noticed the whole job had run too fast, a sign of problems.) Looking, I noticed thier archive files totalled about 3K. A quick check in the past showed they were in the hundreds of megabytes.

So, I pull them off tape, burn them to a CD, walk up. The user's trying to call me. "I can't find my email!" "Here," hand them CD, walk away.

Yeah, I could have just restored in place, and they'd probably never known. That's why I burned the CD.

I, of course, have abandoned my BOfHly past and made the leap to Bearded Wizard Who Telecommutes.

Heh. Good gig. I don't mind the late hours in the office, so long as I get some comptime back to make conventions. All I know is I want a job that will send me to LISA again -- I rolled the dice with a startup, and well, we lost.

#27 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 01:20 PM:

Now, the bit about the short hair, arm in window, and baseball cap = cop? That's gospel.

Methinks there's a biased sample here or something. Because that could describe my father (well, when he had hair) and all my uncles none of whom are in law enforcement.

MKK

#28 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 01:22 PM:

"You" as a recognizeable subset of "you people who disagree with me on this point and who can as a group be defined in terms of the views of some guy who said that..." shows up in my comments some.

I'm afraid I sometimes fall into thinking that way, but I do my damndest to wrestle it to the ground before I post a comment (with a degree of success which I imagine I'm not the best judge of).

#29 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 01:32 PM:

What you folks don't realise about dented cars is that here in London, they're not really a sign of a bad driver. What they are is a sign of someone who habitually parks in places where people tend to run into parked cars. Like, you know, outside our house. And outside our previous house. And in Sainsbury's. And at CenterParcs.

#30 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 01:58 PM:

Erik, I have never had the guts to do that to some of the managers I have worked for -- you do rock, sir.

And, J Greely, I have made it from Beareded Wizard Who Telecommutes to Bearded Wizard Who Does Not Drive Far -- less stress and a cleaner office at home. (Ask my about my 30+ year old Minoltas that still work well, when I can find the batteries . . .)

#31 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 02:13 PM:

The solution to London motoring problems, as so ably described by Iain Banks in "Dead Air", is a Series III Land Rover with a diesel engine.

As it happens, I have one going spare, but it needs a new chassis...

Interested, Alison? :)

#32 ::: Soren deSelby ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 02:23 PM:


I know I won't be very popular for saying this, but

The emperor's naked,

and I'm not afraid to point it out.

I know what you're going to say.

You're just saying that because

you would say that,

of course.

What a . . . coincidence.

Think about it.

#33 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 04:53 PM:

Claude, if I were being 100% accurate, I would have to title myself Bearded Wizard Who Telecommutes Three Days A Week And Drives 70 Miles One-Way The Other Two. Bit of a mouthful, though. :-)

And I'm convinced that my employers move my office every few years just to get me to clean it.

-j

#34 ::: Rachael ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 05:51 PM:

I have never understood the "you people" posters. I spend so little time each day on line, and I certainly don't have any interest in spending it rampaging. I am sure there are forums out there that I could get all 'het up about, but I choose not to participate in them.

By the way, sorry for the misspell on your name Teresa, I would claim grief and tears blurred my, uh, hands... but really I am just spelling challenged.

#35 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 05:51 PM:

Erik, I have never had the guts to do that to some of the managers I have worked for -- you do rock, sir.

Well, it's the old problem. Nobody notices a competent sysadmin. They sure as heck notice incompetent ones. But how do you make it clear that there is a reason for them to be paying you money?

Fixing the problem mere seconds after they realize there is a problem is your best bet. Before isn't good -- well, it is, but it hardly gets you noticed as a good sysadmin. Way after is bad -- they remember the downtime.

As to your batteries -- they're probably mercury cells, which put out a higher voltage. Replaceing them is problematic, there are lots of servicable old camereas whose meters depend on mercury cells. Best place to find them is electronics surplus stores.

(Oh, yeah. I've the mandatory Unix beard and glasses, though mine's pretty close cropped. This is also known in other realms as "The Sensitive Fannish Face.")

#36 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 07:38 PM:

Soren: Sheer bloody poetry.

#37 ::: Berni ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 09:27 PM:

I'm with Alison on the car dents. The only dent on my car is on the roof. Right in the center of the roof. I figure the neighborhood kids were playing ball and one went astray and bounced off the roof of my car. It's not a horrible dent, just a rather amusing one.

#38 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 09:47 PM:

Soren -- Sorry, I didn't read that, because I can't stand exposure to new ideas.

#39 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2003, 10:50 PM:

Alison, Bernie -- remember, this is the US, where cars are worshipped, not tolerated, by the male. A male with dents in his car is almost certainly a bad driver. A not-wealthy bad driver -- a well off one would quickly get the dents fixed.

I've seen this syndrome in perfectly reasonable people. And even fans. :)

UK examples, where they seem to be much more sensible about cars, as a general rule, wouldn't apply here. I can't speak for what marks a bad driver in the UK.

#40 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 02:02 AM:

Scars on the right elbow mark the bad driver in the U.K.; on the left in the U.S.

At least at one time was true that the difference in experience made National Health the place to get your right elbow fixed, Group Health the place to get your left elbow fixed if you had a choice

#41 ::: freelixir ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 02:50 AM:

This being my first post here...I feel like I'm walking on egg yolks.

#42 ::: Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 05:40 AM:

A bad driver in the UK is anyone in a white delivery van. Also small hatchbacks from which you can hear the bassline while standing outside. Anyone leaning forward to sit upright in the driver's seat.

#43 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 07:38 AM:

In quite another online community, someone started a thread of "things that constitute thread hijacking," and they were remarkably like the tropes mentioned here. One post read,

You would say that, [poster's name]. You and Hitler! Fuck you, Godwin, I'll say what I want! Hitler Hitler Hitler! You Nazis!

I don't know about you, but I laughed out loud.

#44 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 07:59 AM:

I can vouch for the truth of Dave Bell's comments about the Mk 3 Landy in London traffic. NB: its efficacy is enhanced by a liberal slathering of manure up to the window sills, a winch, lots of dents and rust, and (finally) a cow's skull lashed to the front bumper. Even the buses will get out of the way.

(Although the generic 3-month-old White Ford Transit van, ideally with hire company decals, runs a very close second. People look at you as if you're part of the cast of Death Race 2000.)

#45 ::: Kip ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 08:53 AM:

Dents on a car in Boston are, according to Wild in the Streets (the unofficial driver's handbook), an important defensive feature. The streets are overburdened, and the book is full of ways -- some shockingly bold, others nastily sneaky -- to carve out space for driving and parking. To get some room to drive in, it's good to cultivate an appearance of dangerous insanity. Some quick lane changes without appropriate signal (it's okay if you signal the other way, for instance), a little in-lane weaving, and a line of drool on the face can help... but all are for naught if you are driving a spotless car with no dents or dings. How will they take you seriously if they think you're trying to protect your precious Honkums from getting hit? You need those dents for credibility. If you can't get them in the normal give-and-take of traffic, go smite your car with a padded mallet. End result: an improvement in your car's 'body space.' (I don't mean the trunk!)

#46 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 08:55 AM:

Godwin's Corollary, 2003 revision: if you mention Godwin's Law when discussing the Bush administration, you lose the argument.

#48 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 10:24 AM:

Darn it, wrong thread.

#49 ::: Madeleine Reardon Dimond ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 10:24 AM:

Kip, thanks for explaining Boston driving and giving the valuable reference material. If only I'd bought Wild in the Streets instead of going to the Chamber of Commerce when I moved here! My car, though, is much more dented than it was.

Peace,
Madeleine

#50 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 10:53 AM:

Well I think those folks that use the phrase "you folks" when referring to us folks are not the kind of folks I want to have posting.

#51 ::: wntr ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 12:04 PM:

When I disagree with an online community, I usually preface my post with "you f*cks".

As in:

Hey, you f*cks, have you ever thought about how some relgious groups type G_d instead of God? Then, this as a given, now as a matter of course, much as the strident flows of sensibility and finely sifted logic cascade down into the crater of mankind's willful and woe-begotten ignorance, the question naturally arises: what is the relationship between f*ck and G_d? Surely this is no mere academic curiousity, no slight and haphazard coincidence of the infinite fates, but, verily!, one of the lost keys to the temple of Solomon itself! Think about it, folks.

#52 ::: John Isbell ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 12:30 PM:

G*d spelled backwards is d*G. Think about it.

#53 ::: Greg ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 01:07 PM:

Hi.

With reference to the use of 'clearly' back at the start of this thread, I once had an Economics lecturer in Dublin who said that when a politician said 'clearly,' what he really meant was 'if you don't understand or agree with what I'm saying, you're thick.'

I think that is all to often the case online too.

#54 ::: Victoria Garcia ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 01:52 PM:


Excessive clearlies could also indicate that you're dealing with a lawyer.

I just stopped practicing in February, and I think I've just about got the "clearly" thing licked, though I'm still working on shedding "with regard to."

#55 ::: Darcie ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 02:52 PM:

Hmm. Don't quite understand the set up of this post but hope it will work. (Also have recently discovered the glory of dropping subjects in the English language, scuse me of this wonderful self-indulgence).

Sentences that begin with "I feel that" or "I think that" indicate a passive aggressive academic (most often a psychologist).

:)

#56 ::: Jon ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 03:53 PM:

Just out of curiousity, NHs, have you seen a dropoff in trolling since you started disemvoweling offenders?

#57 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 04:43 PM:

Good question, Jon. I think we have. I also believe that good conversations are themselves a troll repellent. It takes a certain amount of courage to be the only loud, unattractive drunk at a party.

If you let things get out of hand, next thing you know you'll have several obnoxious drunks who'll all be taking courage from each other, and meanwhile the rest of the people at the party will be disheartened. That's when a thoughtful hostess needs to bring out her darling lace-trimmed baseball bat and dispense a little cranial trauma where it'll do the most good.

#58 ::: Andy ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 04:54 PM:

Xopher: What's a BOF?

#59 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 05:02 PM:

A Boring Old Fart. A status I have lately achieved.

#60 ::: Derryl Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 06:36 PM:

Charlie, I'll make sure you're warned the day I get to Edinburgh with my rental car, so you know to look both directions before crossing the street. One or two days of me driving and all of Scotland will likely get the word out, and I'll be right up there with the white van. Ah, Death Race 2000. What a classic.

#61 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 08:08 PM:

Ah Xopher, something we have in common. I proudly achieved BOFdom years ago.

Or at least my wife tells me I have . . .

#62 ::: S. Addison ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2003, 12:42 AM:

Neil - When I was a regular on rec.music.tori-amos, we observed the passage of a number of "seasons," e.g. "Kate Bush season," "'is she gay' season," "hair color season," etc. in which the new and clueless would pop up and forcibly wrest conversation onto their oh-so-clever insights about Tori and (insert season). Though it was never officially added to the FAQ, there was a regular recurrance of "you people season" as well. I believe the telltale markers included the words "obviously," "clique," and "cabal" as well as the eponymous phrase.

(Pity that these days, one longs for a newbie clever enough to use the word "cabal.")

#63 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2003, 02:07 AM:

May I add a nominee or two?

"The beautiful thing about living in a ____________ society/country is ..."

"No offence meant"

"it's just my opinion" (Gee, and here I thought you were channelling Spirits From The Beyond)

"Obviously..."

"How can you say/ask that?"

References to the reader having no sense of humour or to PCness are, of course, pretty much gimmes. However did people who can't tell a joke and make it funny to save their lives survive and maintain any sort of self-esteem before we started applying this net-wide equivalent of "peer promotion" to them? When *I* was a wee lass, you laid an egg, you had to stand there and turn beet coloured while everyone around you went ah heh heh heh heh and tried to think of a tactful way to change the subject. Humour was better then... you learned from your mistakes.

#64 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2003, 09:16 AM:

I think Terry Pratchett translated "clearly" as something like "there's a hole in my argument big enough to drive a truck through, but I'm hoping you won't notice it."

Me, I need some sort of twelve-step program to get rid of "basically". (Or even "well, basically", as in "The British Well-Basically Club".)

#65 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2003, 10:59 AM:

Would that mean I'd have to stop using "basically"? I do try to stop and ask myself whether the point in question is actually basic.

The word I'd hate to have to do without is "actually", though I'm prone to overuse it. In a world full of spin, disinformation, and misused language, "actually" is needed too often.

#66 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2003, 12:27 PM:

Teresa, your drunks-at-the-party doctrine looks to me like it comes straight out of Malcom Gladwell's The Tipping Point, in particular the chapter about how David Gunn and William Bratton made the New York City subway system safer by way of aggressive grafitti abatement and going after fare-beaters.

#67 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2003, 12:31 PM:

And a Tipping-Point solution to the drunks-at-the-party problem might, rather than resorting to the lace-trimmed shillelagh, involve something as subtle as taking all the beer out of the bathtub and putting it away, leaving only the Diet Fresca and the cherry-flavored mountain spring water.

#68 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2003, 02:36 PM:

But Alan, that would rob the party of the quiet, funny, attractive drunks. Of course, the Giuliani administration was totally comfortable with such outcomes...they didn't care if New York was No Fun, as long as it was safe. (I want both.)

An intermediate solution might be having a breathalyzer in the room; you can drink until the beeper goes off or whatever. I've always believed that obnoxious drunks are drunker than non-obnoxious ones. How's that go? "Jocose, bellicose, lachrymose, comatose"?

#69 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2003, 04:19 PM:

Teresa, several years ago I made a vow to restrict my use of "actually" to no more than once a paragraph. I had to retire from the gun-control debate to make it work. :-)

-j

#70 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2003, 09:49 PM:

I'm afraid I too begin all to many comments and Usenet posts with the word actually. It's just so darned handy and, to me anyhow, seems less confrontational or accusatory than some things while stil making your point.

Actually.

MKK

#71 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2003, 09:55 PM:

While I'd hate to give up With all due respect, it is a remarkably elastic phrase, don't you think?

#72 ::: william ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 01:08 AM:

When I wore a uniform I had to use 'With all due respect...' on an almost hourly basis. Sigh. The good old days.

#73 ::: JK ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 01:15 AM:

Proof positive that "you folks" is indeed a) a telltale sign of idiocy and jerkdom, and b) not necessarily to be trusted as a term of chumminess: on one of the first 9/11 news conferences, the ever erudite and honorable G.W. Bush actually said that the government would do everything in its power to "...find *the folks* who did this" ! (Yep. That surely had them shaking in their boots. And people say he hasn't got a way with words.)

#74 ::: Greg ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2003, 01:52 AM:

My supervisor made me do a wordsearch on my master's thesis to remove the word 'actually', since I use it all the time, and as a rule it doesn't actually mean anything.

Did it again.

#75 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2003, 08:14 PM:

Greg, I can see complaining about "actually" in a thesis. In informal arguments, I see it primarily as a way of softening the blow when you're cutting someone off at the knees: "Actually, your claim is complete and total nonsense, and here's half a dozen references that prove it."

I suspect your supervisor wanted to reserve the actuallys for herself. :-)

-j

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