Stupid PhrasePosted: November 2, 2011
I don’t know why, but a phrase popped into my head in the shower this morning and I can’t seem to get it out of my head. I’m sure you’ve heard it before as it’s fairly common, as phrases go. You may not have heard it in a movie or on TV; it’s a fairly dramatic sort of thing to say, so it seems unlikely that you’ve heard it come out of the mouth of anyone you actually know…or at least I can’t think of anyone I know who’s said it.
“What is it?” you ask.
Well, it generally goes as follows: “I’m only gonna say this once, <insert super-important thing here>.” That’s it.
I’m only gonna say this once.
Now, I understand what the phrase means. It typically preceeds something of particular importance, presumably in order to add a certain gravitas. “This thing I’m about to say is so important that I’m going to notify you as to the specific number of times I’m going to say it to make sure you’re listening before you lose your opportunity” is the general flavor.
…but if you really think about it, it just doesn’t make sense.
Here’s the thing: If what you have to say is so goddam important, why on earth only say it once? It’s completely counter-intuitive.What if the person who needs to hear it doesn’t hear you the first time? What if they sneeze or something? Once you’ve made a statement like “I’m only gonna say this once” you can’t very well go back on it; you’ll just look foolish, repeating yourself when you explicitly stated that you weren’t going to do so. And I’ve got a hunch that the type of person who would say “I’m only gonna say this once” isn’t the type of person who takes looking foolish lightly.
Why take that chance? Why not say it a couple of times – ya know, to reinforce it a bit? Perhaps write it down? Shit, maybe write it down a couple of times.
What I’d love to see is a movie scene in which one of these pompous one-time-only asshats, every word dropping from his lips never to be heard again for fear that it might seem less important, walks up to someone and utters this phrase. Dude proceeds to give his spiel – doesn’t really matter what it is – to a complete stranger. Suppose it’s something about missiles or action or something – fate-hanging-in-the-balance type shit. The stranger listens in perfect silence, waiting patiently until Dude’s lips stop moving. At that point, Stranger signs to him “Terribly sorry, I can’t understand you. I’m deaf and I never picked up the knack of lip-reading. Have a nice day.”
Hmmm…perhaps Stranger could preface it with “I’m only gonna sign this once…”