It's mid-afternoon in the Max Central lobby. We're all waiting for coach to pick us up in the always-entertaining, ever-unique, sometimes-kinda-broken, 15-passenger van. Not everyone's here yet, but this isn't a 6:30am practice, so we don't have to go through the usual ordeal of calling everyone who's missing to make sure they're awake. So about five of us just sit there quietly.
A couple of girls walk across the lobby to the mail room. We sit some more. They get their packages, or at least one of them does. I think the other girl is just there for moral support, as the mail room can be a harrowing experience(but actually). As they walk back across the room, one girl is telling the other about some conversation she had the other day.
“Yeah, I was talking to him the other day.”
“Yeah, oh my god, it was so funny, it was, like, the funniest thing I'd ever heard.”
Wait, but, but...wait. Full stop. It wasn't. It just wasn't. Like, what you just said was an entirely untrue statement. Whatever whoever said to whomever was just not the funniest thing that you or anyone else had ever heard. That's just not what it was.
I don't know why it annoys me. It really shouldn't. It's a stupid pet peeve to have. I know what she means. I know that she doesn't actually think whatever she heard is the the funniest thing she's ever heard. But she did say that it was. And because of that, I have no idea how funny it actually was. Not that I really have any business in the matter. I am eavesdropping on someone else's conversation, and thus have absolutely no right to a deeper understanding of any of the words uttered. But this also obviously isn't the first time I or anyone else has heard this type of exaggeration.
There is a (natural) tendency among, well, humans, especially the young kind, to make sure the impact of what we're saying is felt, to ensure that people are listening. But when we achieve this end by making a caricature of the truth, it's just kind of a bother for everyone involved. For one, as a listener, if every fifth thing is “the funniest” or “the best” or “the stupidest,” I have no way of calibrating a continuum of meaning, or moderation therein. I don't know what level of extremeness to assign to any given statement. If things that are not-so funny, funny, very funny, and incredibly funny are all described as “the funniest thing ever,” well, how am I to know, you know? What's really, actually funny anymore? While this instinct to intensify every emotion in the retelling, to make our lives sound more incredible than they actually are, is certainly not surprising and probably not new(I can't really say for sure, I haven't been around that long), it makes it rather difficult to understand what the Jeeves anyone is actually trying to say anymore.
We're all guilty of it, and it's obviously not the only way all these damn youths are constantly worsening English as a language. It's kind of a dumb thing to notice, a dumber thing to be bothered by, and something even dumber still to write an article about. But it's frustrating to a word nerd like me, and cumbersome to all who engage in conversation. It makes talking to people a more burdening and less enjoyable experience, and it impedes effective communication.
I guess you could deem this a call to action, but I'd really rather not think of it that way, since calling on anyone to do anything is kind of not my place as an unaccomplished college student who's never done much of note and is still dependent upon his parents. But I'd like to hope that maybe the simple days of your future can be retold as the simple days they were, without the need to be heard corrupting their existences. I hope that the next funny joke you hear will never be anything more than funny.
Liam Leddy is the blogger behind Vignettes and Hyperlinks. He is a second-year in the college majoring in economics.