Skepticism

Afternoon Inquisition 1.12

This past weekend, maybe you heard, a group of us met up in Pittsburgh for a raucous night of drunken awesomeness. We partied like we believed Sunday morning was never going to happen.  Unfortunately for our heads and bellies, it did. But we were happy. We had a great time. We were sad to go home.

It made me think of a little phrase that I find completely annoying: Live each day as if it were your last. It makes no sense. If I knew I was going to die in the next 24 hours, I would not be living it up. I would not be out partying, skydiving, bungee jumping or fulfilling my lost childhood dreams. If I were going to die tomorrow, I’d be meeting with my family, double checking that they understood my final wishes. I’d be making sure all my affairs were in order. I’d be talking to my doctor to help me stay comfortable; I’d be talking to my doctor to see if there is anything that could be done to delay my demise, and whether that would be a reasonable thing to do.  If I were to live each day as if it were my last, the rest of my life would be miserable. I’d cry a lot.

What phrase, piece of conventional wisdom annoys you because, though it’s meant to be insightful and wise, it’s really just trite and doled out without any thought about what it actually means?

Elyse

Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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129 Comments

  1. “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”

    That one really chaps me; especially after I have just loved and lost. It’s like saying it’s better to have driven and driven off a cliff than to have never driven at all.

  2. “There are plenty of other fish in the sea.”

    I am incredibly lucky to have found the love of my life… every day I learn more and more ways in which anybody else would just not have made it.

    To suggest that a life-match can be made with pretty much whoever happens along and is available? That’s downright insulting. Anyway, I’ve been there, done that, and burned the T-shirt.

  3. “I’m doing this (awful thing that hurts me, devastates me, destroys my soul and makes me feel utterly worthless and unloved) because it will be better for you. You can move on with your life.”

    Is this supposed to be less hurtful than “I found someone else I like better”?

  4. Hmm…I think it would have to be, “Someday you’ll look back on this and laugh.” Because for some things you do. But only because they’re funny.

    I still cringe at the thought of some of the embarrassing and painful things that happened to me when I was twelve. If I’m not laughing 16 years later, I don’t think I ever will.

    Falling on your ass while playing field hockey and being laughed at by the cool kids? In retrospect, kind of funny. Being humiliated and having your heart broken by the boy you like? Still not funny.

  5. “Good things come to those who wait.” Yeah, I get it: patience is a virtue (or as my adorable niece once said “Patience is a virgin”).

    Somehow, though, I think more good things come to people who, you know, go out and look for them.

  6. The conventional ‘How are you’ or ‘How are you doing today?’ that gets doled out by store employees. I walked into a grocery store in a depressed funk the other day and no less than five employees asked me how I was doing – with a bright happy (forced) smile on their face. I wanted to throttle them all.

  7. Pseudonochic, that doesn’t bother me – they’re just trying to be friendly. Sometimes, true, you just want to get the toilet paper and get the fuck out of there, but in general I’d rather be greeted than not. What I hate in retail is when no one talks to you and you have to practically beg the clerk to sell something to you.

  8. @Gabrielbrawley: Not saying she is the only one possible. Anything is possible. But so little of it is probable.

    All I am saying is, finding her (before I did) was exceedingly IMprobable. And the notion that just about ANYONE would have been fine is beyond insulting.

    The improbability of it is why my name was chosen: Kahomono means, in Japanese, what we Americans mean when we say to a guy, “you lucky dog!”

  9. Everyone I know who’s had cancer has really gained something from the experience.”

    Oh, yea, good one. Let’s see, chemo and radiation made my mom drop to 90 lbs, develop renal failure and diabetes, and her supressed immune system let her develop herpes zoster/shingles in her eye, which caused scarring. She had a cornea transplant last month.

    Yea, all sorts of GREAT things.

  10. I really hate that overused yearbook quote that says stuff like “Dance like no-one is watching and love like you’ve never been hurt,” particularly that last part. Yeah, let’s wander through life blissfully ignorant of our past because, hey, who says you could LEARN a thing or two? And while we’re at it…let’s just keep dancing like idiots!

    I feel like the people who use that in their yearbooks later go on to be the people who get really emotional when “I Will Survive” gets played at other people’s weddings and end up walk-of-shaming it after the reception when they wake up the next morning and realize they slept with the bride/groom’s really unattractive cousin…

  11. “Follow the money.”

    This annoys me as a saying because, although it’s often true, maybe even usually true, it certainly isn’t always true. Sometimes problems are caused by outright incompetence or honest mistakes, rather than apathetic self-interest or greed. Or, all of the above in combination.

    … Wow, I’m in an upbeat mood today. :-\

  12. @Sam Ogden: “it’s better to have driven and driven off a cliff than to have never driven at all”

    Oh, that’s good. Can I use that?

    Some that bug me:
    – “It’s always in the last place you look” (No, I’ll keep looking, thanks)
    – “Live your life one day at a time” (Sure, I’ll just cash in that 401k now)
    – “You never miss it until it’s gone” (Kinda hard to miss something that’s still here)
    – “A watched pot never boils” (Yes it does)
    – “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door” (There have been no significant improvements in mousetrap technology in 96 years)
    – “Expect the unexpected” (My paradox detector just exploded)
    – “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” (The exact opposite of the mouse trap thing)
    – “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.” (Nope, poison’s pretty much universal)
    – “The bad workman always blames his tools” (So does a good workman with crappy tools)
    – “The pen is mightier than sword” (Only if you fire it out of a compressed air cannon at 250mph)
    – “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” (Sure you can; it just takes longer)
    – “You’re never too old to learn” (Unless you’re a dog, apparently)
    – “What does not kill me makes me stronger” (Doesn’t really work for things like retroviral infections)
    – “Home is where the heart is / Home is where you hang your hat” (Nope, I’m pretty sure it’s were I keep all my stuff, otherwise I’m paying a hefty mortgage for nothing)
    – “You can’t go home again” (Sure you can. It’s where your hat and heart are hanging)

    More gibberish can be found here.

  13. @Gabrielbrawley: LOL, when I was in religious premarital counciling our priest asked if I thought my fiance and I were soul mates. I said that she (my fiance) was one in a million, but that just means there’s 6,000 other women out there for me. Funny thing was that, according to the priest, that was the correct answer as the concept of “soulmate” is stupid and believing in “soulmate” can set people up for emotional disaster. My fiance (now wife) disagreed and failed to see the humor in my statement.

  14. @ KristinMH

    The reason it bothers me is because the person saying it in a store atmosphere doesn’t really want to know how you are. If you were to be honest and not fake a smile back, but instead relay all the minor trials and tribulations of the day then you would most likely get a response like “whoa dude, I was just askin’.” Yes, they were ‘just askin’ but why ask if you don’t want a real answer? It has become rhetorical… Ah well.

    Totally know what you mean in the lack of employee help, but I would say the opposite is also true. Memories are recalled of being in a lingerie store (back when I was attending high school) and the saleswoman not going away!

  15. @pseudonochic “The conventional ‘How are you’ or ‘How are you doing today?’ that gets doled out by store employees.”

    It took me the longest time to realize that no one, no one actually wants an honest answer to that question. You could be covered in molten tar with your hair on fire and a 3/8″ drill bit sticking out of your eye socket and the expected answer is still “Fine, thanks. How are you?”

  16. Damnit, Gabrielbrawley! You stole mine!

    When someone says to me “it is what it is,” I am filled with rage. Yeah, and what this is about to be is a bunch in the ear hole.

    What kind of Limp-dick Pointless Pseudophilosophy is that? It has the virtue of being always technically correct, but it contains no additional information and is exactly the kind of thing brainless douchebags say when they want to appear wise.

    It is what it is? Oh, thank you, sensei. So, is not also not what it is not? This is not going to be a friendly hand on the shoulder if you don’t start being more helpful.

    Also, when someone tells me they don’t leave voicemail because they don’t like talking to machines, I am forced to sigh through clenched teeth, which is not easy. That is NOT a stance against the gradual dehumanization of our culture, damnit — it’s a minor neurosis, and a fucking inconvenient one at that, esp. when you call me when I’m in a meeting/bathroom.

  17. I was told last night that it takes “two people to ruin a relationship.”

    Now… correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it supposed to be “it takes two people to make a relationship work?”

    And can’t it actually take just one person to fuck it up?

  18. “Everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.” Really? According to whom? Is there a document somewhere? Is there a public comment period? Or is “the way it’s supposed to” just a convenient way of saying “its final resting stage,” and we’re all pretending together that there’s some intent behind it?

    @Steve: COTW.

  19. My german teacher (from Germany) would always get really frustrated when people would say “Hey, how are you doing” and then walk away. He hadn’t figured out that “how you doing” is just a greeting and that no really gives a rat’s ass as to how you’re actually doing.

  20. @skepticalhippie: I had a philosophy professor that whenever someone would ask him “how are you?” or something similar his response would be “yeah!” or “you bet!”. Someone finally said “that’s not an answer” and he told them “well you didn’t really want an answer. You gave me a platitude so i gave one back”

    I’ve since adopted this.

  21. @geek goddess: I have a really good friend who nearly got a face full of invective and nasty swear words after spouting that little gem. I’m still proud of the silence and averted empty gaze she got instead.

    @Steve: ““What does not kill me makes me stronger”” Fuck Conan!

  22. @Steve:

    “It took me the longest time to realize that no one, no one actually wants an honest answer to that question.”

    from what i understand this is why people thought Clemente was a complainer. they’d ask how he was doing and he’d tell them the truth and got labeled a complainer for it.

  23. I hate it when people ask the question “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

    Yes, according to the laws of physics, it does. You’re not being deep or profound by asking this, only ignorant.

  24. Though not in common usage the supervisor at my reserve unit said to me the other day, “I may act like an asshole, but I’m not an asshole”, Oh really, I see, beneath that assholeish exterior your actually a very sensitive guy. I was mistaken because I had thought that the definition of an asshole was someone who acted like an asshole. Brilliant.

    @phlebas: While I agree with your assessment I find that I use this phrase when my opinion is asked about something were my opinion (or frankly others) is not warranted. For instance “What’s your opinion about the Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston breakup”, My opinion? I don’t know these people, I don’t know or care what happened, this has absolutely no bearing on my life, but you want to know my opinion? shrug… “it is what it is.”

    Or, “What’s your opinion on this financial crisis our nation is going through” (a little context, this was asked to me by my ignorant military co-workers who had just agreed with each other that it’s all the democrat’s fault) What was suppose to say, This is a very complex situation with lots of details for which I could literally spend hours talking about, but I didn’t want to engage them. They saw the world very simplistically and wouldn’t be able to understand half of what I was saying and would have ultimately disregarded it anyway. So the most honest thing I could say while being totally non committal is… shrug….”it is what it is”, no opinion necessary.

  25. @Steve:

    You know, if 0ne man’s meat is shellfish, it very well might be another man’s poison.

    Also, if you put poison on the end of your penis before receiving oral sex from Anotherman, that meat is also Anotherman’s poison.

  26. There’s an old saying in Tennessee, I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee, that says, “Fool me once, shame on … shame on you. … Fool me, can’t get fooled again.”

    …or so I’ve heard.

  27. When life closes a door, it opens a window.

    You know, because now that you’re forever trapped in a place you’ll never be able to leave without going through the trouble of turning a knob, at least your suffering won’t increase if the Anotherman just ate a can of refried beans.

  28. Wow, lots of comments re. relationship platitudes.

    Unfortunately, I can’t relate, because I’ve been involved for the last several years in a stable, committed relationship with a beautiful, emotionally mature woman named Someone Someday.

    Perhaps you’ve met her?

  29. “Have your cake and eat it too.”

    That doesn’t even mean anything–if you had a cake, wouldn’t you eat it? I mean, that’s what the cake is there for!

    “It is what it is.”

    Well, no shit! It sure as hell isn’t what it ain’t!

    “It’s not you, it’s me.”

    Translation: “I’m dumping/rejecting your ass, but I’m going to give you a bunch of empty platitudes so I feel better about myself for doing it.”

    To back up my brother Sam:

    “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”

    I think the flick “Men in Black” handled this one perfectly. When J (Will Smith) dishes out that “It’s better to have loved and lost” bullshit, K (Tommy Lee Jones) just says “Try it!” and walks away. Perfect.

  30. @QuestionAuthority: “It is what it is”

    I say this. Rather frequently. I just realized it’s always in the same situation. Someone is droning on longer than anything with at least a reptilian brain could remain conscious about the state of politics, the state of the legal system, or the state of the funny bump on their pinky toe. I find if I mix up “it is what it is” with “well, what can you do” and “better than a stick in the eye” eventually they stop talking and they don’t get mad at me.

    If I don’t care whether they like me or not I’ll say “Please do not let me slow you on your search for someone who cares” or “Stop talking instantly before your head gets declared a superfund site and drives up my taxes.”

  31. @Kimbo Jones: That was definitely what I was thinking. The overall concept of everything happening for a reason, being part of God’s plan, or whatever else bothers me to no end.

    For one thing, it’s an empty platitude. You’re not helping someone deal with whatever happened or get over it, you’re just lying to them about the bad thing happening because it was supposed to.

    My other issue with it is that it removes all blame, and responsibility, and all ability to learn and change from the situation. It was meant to happen? Oh, good, then it couldn’t have been changed. I don’t have to learn a lesson, or feel responsible for the stupid thing I did that led to it, because it turns out it was going to happen anyway. Yay, no need to improve now.

    There’s other similar phrases, but basically anything that implies that everything that happens has a meaning and was happened the way it was supposed to tends to bother me. Some things just happen, and some things will happen that we can’t control. That doesn’t mean we have to feel good about them, and it doesn’t mean they have to lead to something good. But if we accept that certain things were unavoidable, good or not, then we can refocus on all the other things that we CAN control.

  32. “Head over heels. Isn’t that just another way of saying “upright”?”

    I think that’s more a case of the meanings changing though I’ve always preferred my grandmother’s version “Ass over teakettle”

    “Things always happen for a reason.” Makes me really want to shake the person who says it. Of course things do happen for reasons, if I drop a ball gravity is the reason it falls but of course no one ever says it with that meaning in mind but as some silly platitude that fate/God/etc. has some sort of plan for your life. Sometimes things happen good or bad through complete chance.

  33. “Actions speak louder than words.”

    This invalidates anyone’s attempt to explain one’s behavior. Maybe sometimes it’s true, but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes people are just awkward and don’t know how to react in certain situations, but they can explain themselves very well, and they mean exactly what they say. Then someone throws that gem in their face, which basically implies, “No, I think you’re lying.”

  34. “Life’s not fair.” Last I checked, insofar as it’s relevant, that’s all it is. ’cause everything that lives, dies. And then there’s a similar one about the rose garden, but who the hell wants the responsibility of maintaining such a thing, anyway?

  35. “Love is unconditional”/ “love is blind”

    Is it really?

    “Blood is thicker than water”

    As if being related to someone inherently trumps all else?

    I hear these two things from abuse victims on a daily basis and it makes me sick.

  36. “There are no atheists in foxholes”
    I know this one to be false, because I dug the damn foxhole and got in it myself. That aside, even if it were true, wouldn’t that just be stronger evidence that people cling to religion out of fear? Wouldn’t that be a pretty shitty basis for belief?

    Whenever I see the bumper sticker saying “Know God, Know Peace. No God, No Peace,” I want to do some improvisational art with a pair of scissors. Snag one of those bumper stickers, chop it up, and have instead “No God, Know Peace. Know God, No Peace.” I had a similar idea for the bumper stickers for the local measure to redefine marriage to stop gay marriage that had “one man, one woman,” blah blah other crap. Point being, I didn’t, but should have taken scissors to one of those and had a “One man, one man. One Woman, one woman” bumper sticker.

    Maybe I’m stretching the category a bit here, but the whole “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” thing bothers me. The egg did. If you’re being a pedant, it’s because there were egg laying things before chickens. Better still, the egg because the first ancestral chicken came from an egg laid by a not-quite chicken, whatever generation you decide that happened at. Or, if you are a creationist, the chicken, because god created all the animals, not created all the embryos and sat on a nest full of eggs until the eggs hatched and the various fetuses popped out of whichever divine orifice was delegated to that task. Even with that story, you’ve still got an answer for that non-paradox.

    And I don’t know that it annoys me, but I want to see someone say “you get what you pay for” after tossing a drunk girl Mardis Gras beads.

    I want to see an amputee wearing a shirt that says “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” preferably with an ironic grin and a large glass of gin handy.

    I’m actually ok with “it is what it is” in some contexts. It’s a subtle way of saying “what you’re saying isn’t worthy of comment” while still acknowledging that you’re listening, or at least minimally polite enough to not tell them to go away. But, it’s not profound, and it is annoying that some think it so.

  37. @James Fox:

    seriously. it means having to say you’re sorry all the fucking time… because you care enough to say it. and if you’re with someone who never says “I’m sorry” that’s not love, that’s just being a dickhole.

  38. @James Fox: Yes. You share my pain James Fox.

    Another one that boils my blood is “it’s every little girl’s dream” (especially in regards to marriage)

    Because all little girls are homogeneous fragile twits that need to be swept off their feet and be taken care of.

    Also “but, I’m a girl” (to emphasize inherent weakness) or “don’t be a girl”-

    Has anyone with kids had the experience of buying a kids meal from a McDonalds or Burger King and being asked if you want the “girl” or “boy” toy? I can’t stand that either.

  39. “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”

    Having actually experienced this, I happen to know that it is true. Being in love changes everything (as opposed to simply loving someone which doesn’t necessarily, being in love does), and if you have never experienced being in love, you don’t know that.

  40. @Merkuto: You know, I actually shared a foxhole with a pretentious religious prick once who tried to spout that ‘no atheists in foxholes’ crap. I hate that saying too because it implies that atheists are only atheists because we give no consideration to what happens after death. That we are all so shallow as to instantly convert when faced with any sort of danger. Aside from what it says about the person’s basis for belief, it’s also a pretty douchy attitude toward us nonbelievers.

  41. @Kam: While we’re at it, what about using genitalia as a euphemism for strength? I have a set of balls, and for my money they’re far more fragile than even the frailest vagina. Meanwhile, calling someone a “pussy” means they’re weak?

    I did a comic about this, too. I swear, I will stop self-linking now.

  42. @daedalus2u:

    “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”

    Having actually experienced this, I happen to know that it is true.

    I have to respectfully disagree with you there. I’ve experienced this and I can assure you that it’s all a matter of how the relationship ends that determines whether it was better or not. When said person rips your heart out and feeds it to you in bite-sized portions while everyone watches and after you end the relationship you realize that you truly dislike the person you’ve become as a result of it and have to spend years rebuilding your own level of self-respect…

    Well, the ‘better to have loved and lost’ phrase joins the ranks of some of the most asenine bits of pointless so-called wisdom ever to be spat into society and is likely to incite violent fits of loathing toward whoever says it.

  43. “You’ll change your mind.” Usually in regards to child bearing.

    1. I highly doubt it.
    2. It’s my uterus. Fuck off.

    @Kam: Yes! YES. Omfsm, I have had so many weird looks when I express my extreme reluctance to organize/plan my own wedding. I never daydreamed about what my wedding would be like. If someone would just hand me a small, cheap, secular wedding I’d be so happy.

  44. Detroitus, the saying isn’t about having your heart ripped out and fed to you, it is comparing having loved and lost vs. never having loved.

    It is comparing being in love and losing that person/relationship vs. never having been in love at all.

    If you were “in love” in that relationship, then you will be able to remember the precise time you realized that you were in love. If you can’t remember that precise time, then you were not “in love”.

    Many people go through their lives loving people but never being “in love”. It is a difference that until you experience it you won’t understand. It is very much like being a parent. Until you are a parent, it is difficult to appreciate what that actually means.

  45. A saying that I absolutely detest when Bush used it in discussing foreign policy toward Iran is: “all options are on the table”. Oh, you mean like the options of launching 1,000 nuclear warheads and turning the Iranian civilian population into green glass? And the option of Bush being Ahmadinejad’s sex slave for a week if Iran will give up nuclear weapons? Those options are on the table? Oh really? I would like to see the briefing paper discussing the pros and cons of Bush being Ahmadinejad’s sex slave.

  46. @daedalus2u: Trust me, I understand the difference. I wasn’t implying that the saying is never true, merely that it is often not. And likewise, being utterly betrayed by the person that you are legitimately “in love” with is also something that until you experience it you won’t understand.

  47. @Steve: #27 could be nominated for “Listing of the Week!” :-D

    Don’t even get me started on the related topic of buzzwords and buzzphrases like:
    “Drill down”
    “Rack and stack”
    “At the end of the day”
    “Grow your business”
    “Do a deep dive to get all the data” (Not unless you’re a fucking Jacques Cousteau in a wet suit!)
    “Hit the ground running” (I hope you hit the fucking ground hard enough to make another Meteor Crater!)
    “Impact” instead of “affect” (My English teachers told me that if there was impact, they had better hear glass break and metal crumple!)
    “Outside the box”
    “Win-win”
    “Leverage” outside of a physics text
    “Empowerment” (That poor clerk telling you to “Have a nice day” was “empowered” by management to say that – at the risk of unemployment if he didn’t)
    “Going forward”
    “Exit strategy”

    I could go on and on…but I need to go find some blood pressure medication…

  48. The one I hate, as a moral philosophy student, is “the ends don’t justify the means”. WTF? I can think, off the top of my head, of dozens of situations where the end completely justifies the means. Trampling someone’s freshly planted lawn to rescue the small child drowning in their swimming pool. Lying to the SS to prevent Jews being sent to concentration camps. Punching a guy in the face when he’s about to stab you. I could go on.
    Of course no one really thinks that absolutely anything is acceptable as long as there is some positive consequence. The point is that sometimes, the relative moral impact of one action is so drastically outweighed by the consequences of not doing it that it becomes necessary. Sure, in some cases, the ends really don’t justify the means, but that doesn’t mean the principle is universal and can be used to defend, a priori, against doing something.

  49. I hate the phrase “plant the seed” in terms of spreading ideas.

    It’s pertinent in some situations, but it gets used by every idiot with a batshit crazy idiot idea (including my theist relatives after conversations in which their ideas our trounced).

  50. @Amanda: Oh golly, I was the same way planning my wedding. I never daydreamed about the wedding, just the man waiting for me at the end of the aisle. Provided the groom was the right choice, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the rest. But my mom *insisted* I make every. little. decision. I know she meant well, but it felt almost oppressive. It all ended up okay, beautiful in fact, just much more stressful than I’d’ve wanted.

  51. How true- it doesn’t get any more fragile than testicles.

    Usually when I hear a guy call another guy a “pussy” I dismiss them offhand.

    @Amanda: Ha! I get somewhat the same thing from my mother.

    Her: “You want kids, you just don’t want them now”
    Me: “no, no I don’t want kids ever”
    Her: “oh, you will change your mind, just wait”

    It is so infantilizing- “I used to think the way you do too, you’ll change your mind once you figure it out”

  52. You could be covered in molten tar with your hair on fire and a 3/8″ drill bit sticking out of your eye socket and the expected answer is still “Fine, thanks. How are you?”

    I got that one myself when as a kid when I heard my mom bitching about an aquaintance: “You ask her how she is, and she tells you!”

    Oh, and @Cleon: the expression sounds nonsensical but it actually isn’t – we hear “have your cake” as in “eat your cake” and of course”eat your cake and eat it too” doesn’t make any sense. But it actually means “you can’t KEEP your cake and eat it too”. George Hrab covered it a while ago.

  53. Not exactly a platitude of spiritual healing, but my pet peeve is “The exception proves the rule.” This was true several centuries ago when “prove” meant test, but “prove” has changed its meaning now, and the expression is false.

    @Cleon I like George Costanza’s comment on *Seinfeld* when his girlfriend was breaking up with him and told him, “It’s not you, it’s me.” He said he was the one who made that expression up and if it was anyone, it was him.

  54. “There are lies, damn lies and statistics”. As an econometrician I find this odious phrase professionally insulting.

    Contrary to popular belief, you cannot make a data set say whatever you want it to. Most people do not realise this because they lack the necessary knowledge of statistics to actually interpret data on their won.

    My preferred reply is “figures don’t lie, but liars figure”. The numbers don’t lie, but the guy who analysed them might have. And if you knew more about statistics you would be able to tell, moron. (In truth I rarely say the last part)

  55. Count me in with being seriously irked by “The exception proves the rule.” Sorry, in the way it’s usually said in my presence by people using modern English semantics: no, it most certainly does not.

  56. “Let’s agree to disagree.” To me this is tantamount to sticking one’s finger’s in one’s ears and taunting: ” la la la la I can’t hear you la la la la.”
    Its lazy, patronizing and has the disagreeable effect of making any prior conversation entirely pointless. I heard this one a lot after Prop. 8 passed, so the context definately colors my judgement on this one.

    Oh, and this is my first post here so, Hi!

  57. It’s already been posted a few times: “Everything happens for a reason” my boss says this and I can’t wait for something really bad to happen so I can finally say it!

    “What goes around comes around” implying that someone who just did something bad is guaranteed to have something bad happen to them, they usually close their eyes and slowly shake their heads when they say this as if it had mystical powers!

  58. James K: That’s a damn good one! It’s amazing how many all-purpose woo-purveyors, alternative medicine charlatans, and climate-change ostriches hide behind the supposed all-round fallibility of statistical reasoning.

  59. I’m a life long Socialist and my grandmother was a committed Thatcherite conservative and in our many “discussions” about politics she would always warn me about the evils of a democratically planned economy with the phrase, “Remember, that a camel is a horse designed by committee.” What she always seemed to forget is that the main difference between a horse and a camel is that a camel is fit for purpose.

    I bet this is going to stir things up a bit.

    Steve

  60. @Amanda: The best thing about my last wedding was the rush. We agreed to get married and were going to do it as close to halloween as possible so that we could have it as a costume party. Then I get orders for Operation Enduring Freedom. Turns out I would be in Kuwait for halloween. So we were in such a hurry no one had time to obsess or even worry.

    My sister followed my mother’s lead and just went to vegas over a weekend. So definetly the women in my family don’t spend to much time dreaming about it.

  61. @Amanda: When I got married, we had a choice between an ordained minister or a judge. Neither was a desirable option. We ended up getting her grandfather ordained with the church that advertises in the back of Rolling Stone magazine. He performed the ceremony wearing a kilt.

  62. Man, what a great question. I’m sorry I didn’t see it until today! This might be my favorite AI yet.

    I think “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” is the biggest bunch of bunk ever.

    It’s so very clearly untrue (ask anyone who’s ever been in a paralyzing accident, or had a stroke,) it’s patronizing, and it’s fatalistic in it’s own twisted way. It’s everyone else’s not-so-nice way of letting you know they don’t want to hear you whine, so you should just suck it up and be happy you’re not dead.

    Argh.

  63. Aww, thanks for all the advice, guys. Even the thought of figuring out food for ~30 people is enough to make me run screaming.

    I do have the officiant figured out, actually- a very dear, very eloquent friend who’s known both of us for as long as we’ve been together. I’m thinking of getting her to dress up as Elvis.

    Elopement is inevitable, I figure. I come from a long line of elopers. :)

  64. A few little things.

    1. ‘Near-Miss’. George Carlin said it best- That is a COLLISION.

    2. When people refer to ‘concrete’ as ‘cement’. I’m a flipping civil engineer, and it irks me to no end when people say something like ‘I hit a cement wall’.
    Do you know what happens when you hit a cement wall? YOU GET DIRTY.

    As my concrete professor says ‘cement is to concrete as flour is to birthday cake’.

  65. Give it 100% percent! … Of what? Effort? If so, could we put 100% of effort toward anything without having a nervous or physical breakdown? And would we really want to? I mean, I would like to be able to drive home after work. The only activity I could get close to putting 100% of my effort toward is sex, because at least you can collapse and fall asleep afterward … To me, the only thing that’s worse is when the speaker starts going over 100%.

  66. At least some of these are perfectly good statements, they’re just not “universal truths”!

    Picking one example, “The exception proves the rule” has two perfectly good meanings, in the appropriate contexts:

    The legal meaning goes back to the ancient Romans — the idea is that if a law is passed which lists certain exceptions, you don’t get to argue in court that they didn’t mean it to apply in your (non-listed) case, because if the lawmakers had meant to except your case, they would have listed it. Example: “All vehicles are required to obey the speed limit except for marked and licensed emergency-services vehicles.”, against, say, “well, I wasn’t in an ambulance, but I’m an EMT”.

    The scientific meaning is a method for testing a theory about why something happens the way it is — you examine your theory, and look for a case that ought to produce an “exception”, then construct your experiment to produce those conditions. Example: “Things fall down because [insert Newtonian gravitation].” (As opposed to, say, “heavy things partake of Earth-nature, and seek union with the Earth…”) Examination of the Newtonian equations yields the idea of orbits and escape velocity….

    And, daedalus2u, @#78: I’ll also disagree with too, and not so respectfully as Detroitus! Some relationships are just misbegotten, regardless of how strong the feelings get. (Yes, I’ve been there.) And, your response at #86 is just a “No True Scotsman” fallacy!

  67. I hate “What goes around, comes around.” Oh what crap! How many evil bastards have died peacefully in their beds at the age of 95 after a great meal and good sex? Well, not Hitler, but a bunch of others!

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