I know, right?
If we were to measure our existence by the popular phrases and expressions we’ve lived through, then I’ve personally lived through some troubled times. I have survived the age of “bitchin’,” “tubular,” “to the max,” “totally,” “gag me with a spoon,” “go for it,” “sounds like a plan,” “whatever” and the lesser-known “slap me naked and hide my clothes.” That last one may have been specific to my region, but I still lived through it.
The thing about living in an age of annoying phrases is that you often don’t know you’re in it while you’re in it. It’s the language equivalent of water to a fish. It’s only once you’ve passed through and have the benefit of hindsight that you realize what sort of horror you’ve just experienced.
With that in mind, you may not believe me when I tell you that we are living in the midst of a pretty bad one, one of the worst in several generations.
It’s the era of “I know, right?”
I realize that this isn’t a new bit of language fluff, but I thought it would have run its course before I was forced to comment on it. But years later, it’s still ever-present, and we need to take some action in order to move on to what’s next.
I know what you’re likely thinking. “What’s wrong with ‘I know, right?’ It’s the perfect response for every imaginable situation.”
“Those cars are ugly.”
“I know, right?”
“‘Glee’ is my favorite show of all time.”
“I know, right?”
“The doctor says they’ll probably have to amputate.”
“I know, right?”
That’s probably what you’re thinking. Though you could simply be thinking: “I know, right?”
Let’s consider for a minute what is actually going on with this expression. Take, for example, the following statement.
Me: “I’m pretty excited for the ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ movie to come out.”
Now, there are many responses one could give to this innocent declaration. You could say, “Oh yeah! Me, too!” or “I sincerely hope it doesn’t suck,” or, “What are you, 12?” or, “Look, I appreciate the chitchat, but I’m just here to take your drink order,” or even, “Totally!”
Or you could say, dare I say it, “I know, right?!”
Which literally translates as: “Given that you have just informed me of your upcoming film-watching desire, I am now aware of it and am acknowledging such. And even though you have personally proclaimed this to my face, I still feel the need to ask if you agree with the very statement you just made.”
So, with this in mind, I’m proposing that we immediately strike “I know, right?” from our collective cache of utterances. From this point forward, these are the only reasons to utter those sounds:
Q: Does it hurt on your nose or your eye? Do you want me to pluck it out? And please remind me again if it’s the left or right eye we’re talking about.
A: Eye. No. Right.
Q: OK, class — is there anyone here who knows the name of the brothers who invented the airplane?
A: I know! Wright.
Q: Attention all pirates! In a somewhat notable turn of events, we have boarded your ship by force. Please acknowledge your presence in the traditional pirate way, followed by your opinion as to whether you feel we have the right to engage in said ship-boarding.
A: Aye! No right!
Q: Now you claim to know right from wrong, yet I’ve only seen you demonstrate your knowledge of wrong. Is this all you know, or do you know that other thing I just mentioned, too?
A: I know right.
Q: I realize that English is not your native tongue, and I applaud your recent efforts to improve your speaking. Sure, it’s a bit choppy now, but with daily practice you’ll certainly get there. Just curious, though, as part of your curriculum, are you writing as well as speaking?
A: I no write.
Q: I heard a really weird piece of music today. It was by a famous British avant-garde composer whose name totally slipped past me. It sounded kind of like this (hums melody, if you could call it a “melody”). You know a lot about this genre. Which composer do you think it was?
A: Ino Wright.
(Next time: “Yeah, no.”)
Barry Smith’s column appears Mondays.