Kickin’ “but”

Greetings, dear readers.

It will probably make sense to you that, as a writer, I am a lover of words. Big ones, small ones, goofy ones, serious ones – all of ’em. The days I have to look things up in the dictionary are good days – New Words! First time I saw a word tree on Visual Thesaurus? GEEK OUT!!

KIck butSo you might wonder why I recently spent an entire weekend avoiding the use of one simple word that many of us use multiple times, every day. That word is “but”. Only three letters – and the capacity to inflict multiple barbs.

Now, I know “but” is a perfectly lovely conjunction – She tripped hard on a shoelace, but did not fall. In this context, “but” provides the concise connection between an event and the lack of an expected outcome. Bing, bang, “but” – all done.

However, there is another way “but” is used that has been chewing on me. You have probably all heard something like this, “That was a great, BUT…” “He sings beautifully, BUT…” Uh oh. The “but” takes a great big bite out of “great” and “beautiful” and it’s like we never heard them at all. In this context, “but” can feel like a take-back, a regret, a little dig. If your “great” has a “but” in it, it feels hollow. That doesn’t feel so good.

So I did a little experiment. In this case, I didn’t tell anyone else I was doing it. I decided to try to kick “but” for a weekend and see what that felt like. It meant paying more attention to how I spoke, how I phrased sentences. It sometimes meant stopping and thinking in the middle of what I was saying. Sometimes, I used a different word (often “and”) and sometimes I used no word – I just stopped and then said the next thing. I don’t know that anyone I spoke with was ever aware of what I was doing and I did slip up a few times; that was OK. It wasn’t perfect, it was just more thought-filled and that’s not a bad thing.

For me, this experiment gave the whole weekend a little positive boost. It was like changing the exposure of a photograph – it didn’t change the subject or the content, everything just felt lighter. Speaking in positive terms, I felt positive thoughts bloom around me. The tone of conversations became easier and gentler. With fewer “buts”, there’s no dig, no take-back. Even if I’m talking about things I don’t agree with, kicking “but” creates a sense of shared interest and maybe sharing a desire for change. And who couldn’t use a little more of that?

I am more aware of how I use “but” now, and I am happy with how that feels. Wishing you positive, kick-but (and even kick-a**) days!


Stay tuned for more on the Here’s a Quarter blog next week! As always, your thoughts and comments are always welcome – they are moderated (I know – adulting again), so they may take a little while to appear, but I read them all and appreciate that you were here. Thank you!

My story collection is available on Amazon: Dog Days . If you have a dog-lover who likes to read on your list, it may be just the thing! Chiquita is the cover model and I’d love to hear your thoughts if you check it out.

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