Say-nothing phrases can be fun

There’s a Sara Bareilles song called “Love on the Rocks” that begins

We met on a rainy evening in the summertime
Don’t think I need to tell you more

While some people get annoyed with such say-nothing phrases (another example is, “This person needs no introduction” before a usually lengthy introduction), I delight in them, particularly this one.

If she had said only We met on a rainy evening in the summertime, I would have mentally ingested the phrase as a statement of fact and not think any more on it. Since she goes on to say Don’t think I need to tell you more, I begin thinking about why she doesn’t need to tell me more. Then my imagination starts kicking into gear and I start examining the implications of meeting on a rainy evening in the summertime. I start wondering what kind of steamy meeting it might have been. Is it like those movies where the stars rush to each other in the pouring rain and kiss, pneumonia and hypothermia be damned?

Same deal with “This person needs no introduction.” Sure, you’re going to give her an introduction anyway, but that’s just bonus—she doesn’t really need an introduction. More importantly, the message (not needing an introduction) isn’t the point of the phrase so much as the metamessage (this person is important, and if you don’t know why, shame on you, but I’ll tell you anyway just in case you don’t know).

If you get irked by say-nothing phrases, I urge you to use your imagination. Imagine a world in which people don’t always say phrases and sentences to convey only the literal meaning of the words they’re saying. Say-nothings can be fun!

Join the Conversation

2 Comments

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *