But when they say 'but'

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By John Pawlak

I had a great aunt who would never disagree with anyone about anything at anytime. 

If you said you were in favor of raising taxes on red headed Rastafarians, she’d be all for it. 

If you thought the government should outlaw whale hunting in Arizona, she’d support the idea with gusto.

Got a beef with vegetarians? Think flip-flops should be outlawed in Mongolia? 

My aunt would nod her head in agreement, repeat your statement, nod again and then she would pause. I could always see it coming.

She’d tilt her head a bit, grimace ever so slightly, and then say in a prolonged drawled out almost painful sounding — “Buuuuut.”

With the utterance of that single word, you would then be forced to sustain an onslaught of reasons why what you just said was totally absolutely unequivocally wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

“But.” It’s a simple word that essentially means, “Despite nodding yes for the past 20 minutes, the truth is that I never did agree with you and now I have to throttle you with Paleolithic logic and disjoint rhetoric.”

My aunt was a master of word butting. Of course, we’re all guilty of using the B-word now and then.

Gee Bob, I’d love to loan you that $500 you need, but I really don’t have the money right now.

Well of course, I want to volunteer to help you with the charity auction, but I already made plans that weekend.

When used correctly, it really is a great word. In fact, I rather enjoy rebutting buts.

A woman was telling me, “I have nothing against gays. I’m all for equal rights and I see nothing wrong at all with being gay. But do they have to kiss in public?”

I replied, “I agree. It’s disgusting. Just as disgusting as those heterosexuals.”

She gave me a strange look (well, lots of people give me strange looks) and said, “Huh? What do you mean?”

I explained, “Kissing. It’s disgusting. Getting your tonsils lubricated by someone’s germ-infested tongue explorations. It shouldn’t be allowed.”

You know, I don’t really think my response resonated with her.

But I don’t care.

Yeah, that’s right. But but but. But I don’t care.

Her comment was typical of her regressive mentality and there’s little that ever comes out of her mouth that doesn’t include a rhetorical but.

“I’m all for immigration, but why do we let those people come here?” (Uh, perhaps we need to visit the dictionary to review what the word ‘immigration’ means?)

“I happen to like Muslims, but I don’t think they should be allowed on airplanes.” (Seriously, would you like some dental floss to remove those paint chips from between your teeth?)

“It’s true that we have a lot of people murdered each year by guns, but that’s only because they get shot by criminals.” 

(Gee whiz, I never thought about it, but that’s actually true! Innocent people do not murder other people.)

My problem isn’t really the use of the word ‘but’. It’s more an issue of efficiency. If you don’t like anything other than yourself, then just say so. Forget the preamble that you’re ultimately going to trash with a well placed but. 

Just say what you mean and mean what you say.

Of course, there are those who are more sophisticated in their approach to “butting” conversations. They use terms like “however,” “on the other hand,” “be that as it may,” or “barring that.” With enough planned obtuse language, you can easily disagree with anyone while shaking your head “yes.”

Today however, we don’t need clever reverse-echoing of words to discuss current political topics. In order to correctly “but” someone’s statement, you have to first agree with what they say before you toss out a verbal grenade. 

There’s virtually no agreement between party affiliations, so the frequency of “but” has decreased dramatically.

I think I’m going to start trying to use the word “and” instead. It’s hard to argue with someone who isn’t butting you.

So, let’s give it a try.

I agree with everything you said, and you’re wrong.

 Yeah, I like that.