The Linguistics Engagement


Prep: indicating contrast

A little while ago I went on a difficult conversations course. It was ran by an HR support company and I went along because at the time I was beginning to work with new people who I didn’t know as well as I knew the people I’d previously been working with.

Aside from picking up some useful bits about body language, I picked up one good point – use of the word ‘but’.

The word ‘but’ is quite negative in its day to day usage.  It suggests by its very definition that it is about to contrast away and usually is used to put a negative into the conversation. For example:

I really like what you did with the planet but I would have preferred it with more ozone.

The question was then raised of what word do you use instead?  ‘However’? It’s still a but, using none of the same letters and instead seven new ones.

The answer is ‘and’.  Coupling a positive with another thought maintains the positivity in what you are trying to convey.

I really like what you did with the planet and I would love to see more wind farms.

I’m still suggesting there need to be more wind farms and I embracing the idea that it would be positive to see more.

So, my new years resolution about 2 and a half months ago was to stop using the word ‘but’ and instead switch to using ‘and’.  It has to say the least been a challenge.  I have enjoyed it though for I like to be nothing but a cunning linguist.

If I’d thought about it, I’d have suggested this to others for Lent… maybe next year?