The most powerful word in the English language is “but.” It’s a grammatical Liam Neeson with a very particular set of skills that kicks ass. It’s way better than that greedy little “and” who’s always looking for something extra the minute he shows up. And, don’t get me started on “or:” grammar’s Hamlet, who couldn’t make a decision if his life depended on it. No, for sheer conjunctional word power, go with “but” every time. Here’s why:
1 – “but” sugarcoats the punch in the face — When you want to rip somebody a new one but you don’t want them to get so angry they go home and get a shotgun, throw in a “but.” For example: “Jennifer, you are one of our most valued employees, conscientious and hard-working, BUT you have the math skills of a goat, and if you don’t get with it, I’m going to fire you so hard your grandchildren will be unemployed.”
2 – “but” pleads your case — When you know you screwed up and you’re looking around for something else to blame, use “but.” Once again: “I know I drove your car into the side of that guy’s house, BUT you didn’t tell me it had sticky brakes when I borrowed it.”
And if you play #2 correctly…
3 – “but” can even get you off the hook — “Normally, I’d pay for the repairs to your car, BUT if it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t have ever known about those bad brakes. Actually, I did you a big favour.”
4 – “but” lets us look on the bright side — When your situation seems about as bleak as the slums of Mordor, try “but” to turn the lemon into lemonade. “Hey, bro! Sorry I had sex with your wife and your little sister last month after your birthday party, BUT they both phoned today, and guess what? They’re not pregnant. Cool, huh?”
And finally the most badass tool of all:
5 – nothing important ever gets said until someone says “but.” — In any conversation, discussion or argument, you can discount everything that’s said before “but.” In fact, you don’t even have to listen. Check it out:
“I understand your point of view, but only the part that happened before you opened your mouth.”
“Of course I agree, but not enough to quit arguing with you.”
“That’s an interesting opinion, but I’m not all that familiar with LooneyTunes cartoons.”
“Certainly, this current refugee problem is a crisis of biblical proportion and Western governments have a moral obligation to offer as much assistance as possible but what are all these gypsies, tramps and thieves doing in my country?”
“I like pasta, too, but there’s no way I’m eating that Italian glue tonight.”
“I’m not a racist but, man, those people are weird.”
“I love you dearly, but if you leave the toilet seat up one more time, I’m going to shoot you in the head.”
Etc. etc. etc.
So here’s to you, “but,” you sassy little conjunction! Thanks for always being there for us.
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