Friday, March 25, 2011

Possibilities But...

"The only limits to the possibilities in your life tomorrow are the buts you use today."
Les Brown

Just a Band is a great, relatively unknown group from Kenya much like Jamaica's own Acmatic who have a fresh sound that is uncharacteristic of their respective country's popular music. The "If I Could" music video juxtaposes a young man and woman going through eerily similar morning routines. It ends with them both at the bus stop, covertly fascinated by the other but inevitably ending the story as a "missed connection". It's a song about possibilities, of "if I could" and in the case of the video, "what if I did?."


What would you do if you could? A lot, I'm sure but... That's the virus. "But" is a nasty 3 letter word. That seemingly insignificant word is more dangerous than just a conjunction. It's a double edged sword.

"I... But..."

Just the use of the word "but" limits our possibilities. "I could but...", "I wanted it but...", "I was going to but...". It's a learned crutch for the English speaker to drop the word into their sentence, deferring what is possible. It creates a personal boundary if you even think it because you start to think of excuses.

"Yes... But..."

Don't think "but" only affects us, the but-er. It creates trouble in conversation too. Envision a discussion or argument between yourself and another. This second person states an opinion. In reply, you could do a few things including to:
  • Agree completely
  • Disagree completely
  • Agree to some extent and cite additional information or views
If you agree or disagree completely your position should be clear. On the other hand, if you partially agree and in adding to your reply use "but", the second person subconsciously hears "I disagree, let me tell you why you're wrong". We have grown to associate "but" with various types of opposition.

No Buts

Let's try the impossible. Remove "but" from our vocabulary. Find creative ways around it. This is far from easy and you may not be able to do it completely, I definitely haven't. Trust me though, it's satisfying not hearing yourself say it. Whatever you express will sound different, more possible and more clear. What's there to lose besides three letters?



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