Don’t take it personally…


My job involves a lot of verbal interaction, face to face and over the phone, encompassing a range of emotions from thoroughly chilled to tremendously racked-off! While I can’t give specifics over what I do for a job (because it’s a big secret. Okay, not MI5 big but big enough for me to get a P45 in the post if I blab) I can give out real-life examples of some interactions. And there’s one thing that really stood out for me today…

When recounting a story, it’s common (but not universal) to use the past tense in its many forms. Makes sense, right? Using the future would confuse, addle, and perhaps rile those who are trying to understand what you mean when you said that you will be buying a mule last Tuesday.

And I'll need to get some food for it a week ago.

Now, let’s say we want to emphasise something that happened in the past. We can use modifiers, just as we would do in any other tense. It was a really stinking mule or There was an incredibly unusual noise coming from the mules’ left nostril, to name but a few examples. The words in bold are adverbs. Again, they don’t always have to be, but more often than not they are.

Let’s trot away from the mule (it’s fine, I found some food for him; he’ll live) and observe something a little more human. Let’s say you went into a shop a few days ago to continue with a conversation that you had been having with a shop assistant. The shop assistant isn’t there, so you’d probably start off a conversation with a new shop assistant, with something along the lines of I came in a few days ago to… or something similar. It’s a scenario that most people have been in, unless you hate talking to strangers, in which case you really need to stop worrying what other people think of you.

The point of this post comes when people really want to labour the point home. This can occur when people are angry or just when you feel like really embedding yourself in the conversation. They throw in an adverb. More specifically, they throw in this adverb:

I came in personally

Let’s just step back from this sentence a little first. Ok, so it is an adverb. We can replace it with other adverbs and it would still be syntactically correct but perhaps a little unusual to understand. But thinking about this one, isn’t it a little peculiar too? How does coming in personally differ from any other type of ‘coming in?’* Is it possible to impersonally come in? And just when does it get to the point where coming in leads to coming in personally?

I actually don’t know the answers to this one, so I’m going to keep tabs on it. As for the third question, I’m pretty sure it has something to do with how irate you are, but that’s all just an educated guess. I’d love to hear what you think, if you’ve had similar instances, and I will post an update once things become more apparent.

In the mean time, anyone want to buy a donkey……….?


*No rude responses to this, please. This is a family blog. I think.


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