Wednesday, 1 June 2011


Language is defined by its usage; Gay rarely means light hearted and fun, Genius now means everything from second rate rapper to nerd who helps you in the Apple store and Obviously means, well, whatever you want it to mean.

Poor, poor, poor, obviously; what did it do to deserve this?

You only have to look at the abuse this simple and easily definable word* gets in the mouths of politicians to understand the depth of the problem...

Mr Cameron was asked about the period before the general election when he treated Mr Clegg as a joke. The Prime Minister said with a gleam of wicked amusement: "We've obviously had to get used to each other's jokes over the last year."

Andrew Gimson Daily Telegraph 12/05/11

Here i's thrown in for emphasis, without it the almost joke would be even smaller. So in this context it has no meaning.

The PM then threw in a mildly amusing remark about how Mr Miliband, just like Michael Foot, was being 'undermined by someone called Healey'...The House laughed. By the standards of Commons oratory, it was not a bad crack, even though it was obviously pre-fabricated.

Quentin Letts Daily Mail 12/05/11

Err, Ok, same thing here only in this case it adds a splendid frisson of smugness too.
Danny Alexander, the Treasury chief secretary, (commenting on the PM’s 'Calm down dear' gag) "Obviously, if something has caused offence, obviously that was not right. I hope it has not caused offence, because it was a joke".

I honestly didn't do this on purpose these quotes are randomly pulled off Google. The problem is that no one really knows what they're doing when it comes to things being obvious. Poor old Danny Alexander sounds like a petulant child when this quote is written down. Let's take this quote and take the 'O' word out of it.

"If something has caused offence, that was not right. I hope it has not caused offence, because it was a joke".

It's startling just how more sincere and pleasant it reads.

The most common crimes against this otherwise blameless word are emphasis, condescension, and self flagellation. We've covered the emphasis section, how about condescension. Take this completely made up response to an angry journalists question about NHS cuts.

"Obviously we are all having a tough time financially that's why we're closing all our hospitals and putting our patients in the capable hands of Keith the Aroma therapist"

Or in other words "How dare you question your betters, you jumped up little pencil pusher. We will do what we feel is for the best and you can just lump it"

It may be that the fictional government official is worried that he's going to be held accountable for a terrible horlicks but the first word out of his mouth immediately annoys the consumer and the interviewer and removes any sympathy for the messenger. 

Self flagellation is forgivable but again smug. Try it tonight. Stand in your house and start an argument. A good vicious argument, something along the lines of "goodness you're putting on weight dear" have a really good row and go to bed very, very, very angry. In the morning just see if this works, say in a loud firm voice "obviously I'm sorry, and I obviously didn't mean it" you may want to start ducking as you say it head wounds aren't worth proving a semantic point.

If you're being interviewed, if you're being quoted, if you have a point to make in a presentation avoid being obvious. It's obvious that you don't need it, and if you need to say it's obvious then it isn’t and if it isn't then you didn't in the first place... obvious eh?

*Easily perceived or understood; quite apparent. I did tell you.

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