Were I granted the ability to remove one word from the English language, I would use my awesome psychokinesis super powers to obliterate the word “actually” from the public consciousness instantly and for all time.
I don’t have even an inkling of “awesome psychokinesis super powers” but if I’m spending time day dreaming about achieving the impossible, I’m going to fully commit and imagine that I can accomplish my goal in the most fantastic way imaginable.
I did not always hate the word actually. I can concede that it has its uses. It is handy for conveying the meaning also found in phrases such as “In truth” or “In point of fact” – particularly when you are involved in casual conversation. We can’t always go about responding to people as if we were players in a Shakespearean drama.
“Would you like another piece of cake?”
“In truth, I aver I would desire such, most excellent baker and friend!”
No. Instead we might say, “I know it’s my third serving – but actually, I would!”
Of course, a simple “Yes” would have achieved the same result. In this case, however, actually helps to confer the sense of surprise. This desire to convey shock or disbelief is one of the most common reasons to employ its use.
“Do you actually enjoy listening to One Direction?”
“Why, yes, I actually do.”*
(*I don’t. No one does.)
Still, none of the this, riveting though the linguistic lesson may be, explains my passionate hatred of the word. I have to admit, the fault is not with the word itself, but with the frequent abuse of it within my own home.
My children are the main source of this agitation. A large part of each and every day is wrapped up in the annoying habit of one child pointing out when the other child is wrong.
“There’s a full moon tonight!” “Actually, the true full moon was last night. I can’t believe you did not know that.”
“We’re getting pizza for dinner.” “Actually, we’re getting pizza and wings for dinner.”
“The sky is blue!” “Actually, it only looks blue. It is actually caused by the scattering of light…blah blah blah…(INTERMINABLE RAMBLING OF SCIENCE FACTS HERE)….actually…blah…blah…blah…and that is why you are wrong, and ACTUALLY I am right.”
Here is where the use of actually starts to grind my nerves. These conversations would be tolerable, or at times even interesting, if the word actually was not used as a blunt weapon to inform another person just how wrong they are. It happens so frequently that I can no longer hear the word spoken without experiencing an involuntary flinching of my eye muscles. I hate it that much.
Perhaps you actually employ the word in an appropriate manner, and thus feel that your life will somehow be depleted by its elimination from the lexicon. Maybe your children are actually better than mine, and they don’t complete with each other in a verbal battle of one-upmanship. Maybe you feel that removing the word is unfair to those of you who actually need its ability to express surprise. I urge you to consider the possibility that you don’t actually need the word. After all, this paragraph reads much better without it.
Even so, I’m betting that some of you still want me to leave actually alone.
I actually don’t care. I’m going to use my awesome psychokinesis powers and erase it anyway.
‘Actually’ is barely visible in this picture – just a tad more psychic effort and perhaps I can erase it entirely.