Sunday, 5th December, 2010.

But

I was switching over our clock-radio just now from Off to Alarm.   To do so, I had to click past the station to which it is tuned, Radio Wales.

As it flicked the switch, I heard only a second, perhaps, of the programme which was being broadcast.   A man’s voice – Standard-Received English, it seemed – said one word as I passed by.

“But . . . “

That really is all I heard.   That really is an important word.   It is used as often, maybe more often, than any other in the English language.   Doubtlessly, “ond” and “mais” and other non-English words for “but” are used just as frequently.

Quite often, it is used as part of a phrase:  “Yes, but . . .” people will say when really they mean “No”.

An alternative to “but” is “however”, which I try to use instead (though don’t always succeed).   “However . . .” can signify that, though all the points have been made and alls the arguments have been put forward, there may be something which has been overlooked.

“However . . .” is not a direct disagreement.   It is a “let’s talk some more about the subject until we agree fully”.

The way we use language – any language – surprises me often.

Nevertheless, “Yes, but . . .” will always remind me that someone is saying “No . . .”

* * * * *

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