Tuesday, February 27, 2007

HTT, you're driving me crazy!

Dear HTT,

Ever since I found out you named your column "Here’s the thing…" I’ve noticed that I use that phrase all the time! I can’t figure out whether I’ve always said it and just never paid attention, or if I’ve just picked it up. In either case, it's starting to make me a little crazy. I’m a teacher, so I do a fair amount of public speaking, and I’m getting self-conscious about how often I start an explanation with "well, here’s the thing." How can I either stop using the phrase or stop obsessing over it?

HTT squared

Dear HTT squared,

I should recuse myself from answering this question, because I’m not an impartial observer. But you wrote to me, so I’ll try to tackle it.

Before I address your mental health, though, I do want to say this: does your quandary not prove the genius of the phrase as a title for my column? (I didn’t come up with it, so I’m not being completely immodest.) It’s working on a subliminal level, whether you’re using the phrase more than ever or merely noticing something you’ve said all along.

And you want my advice on how to stop saying it? Oy, what a conflict of interest! Does McDonald's want you to forget "two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun"? I think not. I mean, I’m pretty certain Mickey D's hasn’t used that campaign in years, and the phrase still rolls off my tongue as easily as my social security number.

I’m sorry you feel self-conscious about how often you say "here’s the thing." Don’t you think the first few people to say "iPod" felt a little silly? It’s goofy-sounding when you get right down to it. But now it’s used so frequently, that it’s practically generic, like Band-Aid. (I hope no one from Apple is reading this.) Point being, maybe someday it will be cool to say "here’s the thing"! People will give a knowing wink when they say it; there’ll be T-shirts and bumper stickers; I’ll have television ads with a hip music soundtrack.

O.k., maybe not. In fact, I suspect I have a readership of three or four, so it’s unlikely that anyone you lecture to is going to give a knowing wink when you say "here’s the thing." You’re probably the only one who notices that you say it frequently. If you can remember that, will you feel less awkward about it? I hope so, because while I’d like the phrase to be memorable, I don’t want it to drive you to the brink.

Best wishes,