Remember when Whoopie Goldberg would do her Valley Girl act, using “like” in every sentence, often twice?
Well, now a lot of people on TV are using the word “actually” just about as often, and once you are attuned to it, it’s quite comical. Remove the word “actually” and the meaning of the sentence is unchanged, because it was applied indiscriminately.
I’ll catch people doing this while expounding on the mortgage industry, or wildlife in the jungle, the latest cancer test, or the history of the Boer War, i.e., all sorts of serious topics. And also the not so serious topics like who’s the latest starlet arrested.
I had a co-worker one time who did a similar thing by using “seriously” every time he talked. We would be scoring them during a meeting to see if we could count them all.
I worked in high tech for 11 years, from 92 to 03. One of my coworkers observed to me, about in 98-99, that everyone in the company seemed incapable of answering a question without saying either “actually” or “basically”.
Both words imply the speaker has superior knowledge of the situation which he must simplify so his less smart interlocutor can understand it. “Actually” also implies that the interlocutor’s understanding is somehow wrong, and that the speaker must show him the true situation.
I immediately undertook to banish both from my speech, and almost ten years later, it is still difficult.
I guess it’s kind of like how cops on cops shows (like for instance “COPS”), insist on constantly using the phrase “at that time”, and the word “preceded”, often, but not always in conjunction with each other, even though it really adds nothing to the sentence.
You can remove this word from a sentence without changing or losing any meaning. But I think this is always true and not just when it is applied indiscriminately. The word is meaningless. I believe ‘actually’ is considered a weasel word.
Good point, I don’t see ‘actually’ listed in the wiki page. In fact, the text of the page uses ‘actually’ in a useful manner:
The best example I can think of where ‘actually’ is used as a weasel word is when it is used to add weight to a statement:
“Actually, Barack Obama is ineligible to be president.”
is similar to:
“I heard that, Barack Obama is ineligible to be president.”
But I have to admit that I am not strongly convinced by my own example.
Slight tangent: I could do with well hearing people, especially pro athletes, stop saying, “I mean.” I mean, I know what they’re saying, but sometimes, they just use it to often. It’s ok to give a pause when speaking, I mean, it’s better to collect your thoughts than just say umm, uhh, and I mean. Oh well.
My youngest daughter just turned three and she has been using it since she was 2 1/2. It is funny to see a tiny child use a big word somewhat correctly. I think she got it from my oldest daughter who started using it at least by age five. I don’t know how the whole thing got started though.
I think trupa’s observation may have something to do with it: “Both words imply the speaker has superior knowledge of the situation which he must simplify so his less smart interlocutor can understand it. “Actually” also implies that the interlocutor’s understanding is somehow wrong, and that the speaker must show him the true situation.”
Sounds a lot like the way children are liable to think. They aren’t quite articulate enough to say exactly what they mean, but they just know they’re right. Or it could just be a verbal fad that kids pick up on.
The person who sits next to me at work uses “definitely” in the same way.
She (definitely) tends to butcher English in an attempt to appear smarter than she is all the time, though, and I (definitely) cringe any time I have to listen to her talk to customers for extended periods or read anything she writes.
For example, she sent the following letter to a customer: The business partners have reviewed your case closely. In doing so, we have determined. Based on our findings, that X and Z apologize for your experience. X and Y is aware that you allowed Z to come and inspect the unit and was told the reason the coils are leaking and freezing up is because of original install issue; X is willing to repair the unit if you would like but that will be expenses from you and the reason the expenses would come from you Mr. and Mrs. A is currently the unit dose not have an Extended Warranty on it. Therefore, X and Y, we apologize if this does not meet your expectations.
All I changed were the company and customer names, and I left everything else the same, including grammar and punctuation. Can you make sense of this? I can’t, and this was a certified settlement and release agreement on Huge International Company letterhead for a multi-thousand dollar service.
Actually, my friends and I used ‘actually’ quite a lot in the mid-to-late-'80s. Basically, I think you’re right about ‘basically’. I too, worked for a ‘high tech’ Defense contractor during those years; and one person in particular seemed to start every explanation with ‘basically’. I found myself saying it, and was successful in weaning myself from the word. Basically.
I use “actually” way too much when I write. Particularly on the 'Dope. I’ve gotten in the habit of taking a minute to go back through my posts and removing all the actuallys as I can before I submit them.
I am not always totally successful in this endeavor.