Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Oh, By the Way

Once, we used to say "by the way" to present an aside. As in, "By the way, Janet, did you know that Britney Spears is playing in concert in Baltimore tonight?"  

This made sense. It literally means "along the way." Not a conversational destination, but rather a small stop along the way, with the main thread continuing long after this minor detour is complete. 

And then someone decided that irony was good. We all became anglophiles, and some of us stayed anglophiles (guilty) and sarcasm became the name of the game. And thus was born the "Ironic Oh By The Way."

It is executed thusly:

You need to get cheese and bread and peanut butter and apples with the 10 dollars I've given you. And OH BY THE WAY, you also need a NEW COMPUTER.

The idea, of course, is to make the point that the new computer is hardly the sidenote, but rather the key element. I get it. And there are times when it accurately mocks the situation at hand. But, more often than not, I hear it like this:

You need to get a new computer, a new transmission and dinner for 300 with the $10 I have given you. And OH BY THE WAY, you also need A NEW WATER HEATER.

See - there's no irony there. There's no point. All it does is enable the speaker to fill air while thinking of a fourth item. And it sounds stupid. At my former employer, this sentence structure was a way of life, and I nearly died every time I heard it. Now, I have a new OBTWer in my life, and I sort of want to smack him every time I hear it.

Seriously. Come up with something new. Or, say what you mean, which is "There's no way on God's green earth that you can afford that water heater!"

1 comment:

Capt. BS said...

I know someone who uses "Oh, by the way" to (1) baldly hijack a conversation and/or (2) prevent you from responding to a point that he makes prior to the OBTW. (Thankfully, I don't work with this person anymore.)

Examples, using the mysterious-sounding Mr. X:

(1) Me: "So, John, did you watch the Sox game last night?"
John: "Yeah, that was awesome! I never thought they were going to complete that comeback."
Mr. X: "It was great. By the way, Captain, my laptop won't boot anymore. Ever since I opened that attachment called virus.exe, Windows just won't start up. Can you come look at it for a second?"

(2) Mr. X: "Captain, the new Task Manager screen you created yesterday doesn't seem to work. When I open the screen, I see a list of all of my tasks, but nothing happens. Isn't it supposed to figure out what I should be doing next and display a pop-up window with instructions? I mean, I don't know how anyone is supposed to use this thing. If they have to actually enter data into the system, what's the purpose of using the system at all? Why not just write everything down on a post-it note and put it on your refrigerator? By the way, I saw this really good movie the other day, where this hacker takes a red pill of some sort and ends up in this alternate universe. It really makes you wonder about what the nature and purpose of your life really is? I was telling my wife, 'Honey, I don't care if I'm just a tiny Duracell battery for some giant can-opener machine that I can't see, I'm just glad that I'm here with you.' Heh, wasn't that sweet of me?"