The Tyranny of the Word "Just"
By Carrie Fancett Pagels
I've been wanting to post on this topic for a long time. When I was in a boot for many years, for my heel problems from my RA, I kept thinking I'd do a post. Then when I went back into a boot again for my recent broken ankle, I determined I had to finally write this up. What spurred me on, too, was coming across this topic on a work-related blog, in which they had a very different viewpoint than mine on the problem with using the word, "just." In that post, they made it sound like young people at work could make it clear that they knew what they were doing by specifying "just" in the instructions!
Here's one of my favorite (I'm being facetious) uses of the word. During a time when I couldn't even get down my home's hallway without excruciating pain in every step, I was told that I could "Just fill out the form and put it out in the mailbox!" Really? My mailbox is across the road. At the time I'm not sure I could have crossed the road even if someone held a gun to my head. And who amongst us hasn't spoken with a tech person who has advised us, "If you'd just do (something they know because they are a specialist" with the inference that by not knowing this thing the person was ignorant.
The use of "just" infers that something is supposed to be easy. But its all POV. If someone, when I was twenty, had told me to "Just run/jog down the road a mile" that would have been easy. I was a runner. This word, "just", has become one of my least favorite words. I've tried to get more careful, myself, about using this word. When I start saying something can just be accomplished if, I try to back up and rephrase it. I've started changing it to, "If you do (first step, second step) then this other thing could possibly be accomplished." That usually opens the door a little better for the person to explain if step one or step two has an issue that has to be addressed. But to go in and tell someone "If they'll just do step one, step two" implies those two steps are easy. Furthermore, doesn't it seem like they are telling you that you should have figured out or done this simple thing?
Question: How about you? Have you been tyrannized by the word, just?
Giveaway: Box of books to one of my commenters this week.