What they say and what they mean

A little guide to what some people (on the internet and elsewhere) say and what they actually meant.

"So let me get this right" – Let me deliberately get this wrong, reducing all arguments to absurd oversimplification.

"Just saying" – I'm not "just saying"; but if you take offence at this barbed comment I will act all surprised and horrified. I am, after all, just saying!

"No offence" – I mean quite a considerable amount of offence.

"I'm not racist . . ." – I am racist.

"Don't take this the wrong way" – as anything other than an insult.

"But will you also condemn XX atrocity by YY?" – Look, the brown bastards are WORSE than whitey.

"You wouldn't be as keen to criticise Muslims, would you?" – Look, the brown bastards are WORSE than whitey.

"Funny you didn't mention incident ZZ, which also happened recently . . ." – Look, the brown bastards are WORSE than whitey.

"A deafening silence from you on that one" – Because you fail to mention something irrelevant and obscure, this means you are a hypocrite.

"I thought you were meant to be a liberal" – I hate liberals, but if liberals don't react in a way in which I assume liberals, whom I hate, should react, I can say they're hypocrites.

"So much for freedom of speech!" – Since you refused to print my pointless inflammatory racist comment, you are the bad guy.

"Of course, you can't say it nowadays" – Because some people think racism is a bad thing, or something, it's become disgracefully socially unacceptable to just go around being a racist.

"At last, someone brave enough to tell the truth" – At last, a bigot saying something bigoted in public.

"If you took off your PC rose-tinted glasses for a minute" – and popped my jaundice-tinted, bigoted specs on, you'd see things as I do.

"Nice post, but what about XXX?" – What about something entirely unrelated, which I can try and engage you with in abysmal circular discussion for about 55 years?

"This post is biased" – And so am I, but my bias is the nice, allowed kind, while yours is the evil, bad sort.

"This blog post isn't objective" – Unlike my trolling comment underneath, obviously; and yes, I have wilfully misunderstood the idea of a lot of blog posts.

Feel free to add your own examples below.

Patrolling the murkier waters of the mainstream media
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Why do the words “soup, swoop, loop de loop” come to mind every time I lift a spoon to my lips?

It’s all thanks to Barry and Anita.

A while ago I was lending a friend the keys to our house. We keep spare keys in a ceramic pot I was given years ago by someone who made it while on an art-school pottery course. “That’s er . . . quite challenging,” the friend said of the pot.

“Is it?” I replied. “I’d stopped noticing how ugly it is.”

“Then it’s a grunty,” she said.

“A what?” I asked.

“A grunty. It’s something you have in your house that’s hideous and useless but you’ve stopped noticing it completely, so it’s effectively invisible.”

I was much taken with this idea and realised that as well as “grunties” there are also “gruntyisms”: things you say or do, though the reason why you say or do them has long since been forgotten. For example, every time we drink soup my wife and I say the same thing, uttered in a strange monotone: we say, “Soup, swoop, loop de loop.” How we came to say “soup, swoop, loop de loop” came about like this.

For a married couple, the years between your mid-thirties and your late forties might be seen as the decade of the bad dinner party. You’re no longer looking for a partner, so the hormonal urge to visit crowded bars has receded, but you are still full of energy so you don’t want to stay in at night, either. Instead, you go to dinner parties attended by other couples you don’t necessarily like that much.

One such couple were called Barry and Anita. Every time we ate at their house Barry would make soup, and when serving it he would invariably say, “There we are: soup, swoop, loop de loop.” After the dinner party, as soon as we were in the minicab going home, me and Linda would start drunkenly talking about what an arse Barry was, saying to each other, in a high-pitched, mocking imitation of his voice: “Please do have some more of this delicious soup, swoop, loop de loop.” Then we’d collapse against each other laughing, convincing the Algerian or Bengali taxi driver once again of the impenetrability and corruption of Western society.

Pretty soon whenever we had soup at home, Linda and I would say to each other, “Soup, swoop, loop de loop,” at first still ridiculing Barry, but eventually we forgot why we were saying it and it became part of the private language every couple develop, employed long after we’d gratefully ceased having soupy dinners with Barry and Anita.

In the early Nineties we had an exchange student staying with us for a year, a Maori girl from the Cook Islands in the southern Pacific. When she returned home she took the expression “soup, swoop, loop de loop” with her and spread it among her extended family, until finally the phrase appeared in an anthropological dissertation: “ ‘Soup swoop, loop de loop.’ Shamanistic Incantations in Rarotongan Food Preparation Rituals” – University of Topeka, 2001. 

This article first appeared in the 21 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The English Revolt