You should definitely read this blog!

After many months of puzzling my puzzler and consulting my “Understanding Humans” manual (volume 14 of an as-yet-unfinished compendium) I’ve come to the conclusion that the word “definitely” actually means “never.”

He said he's "definitely" going to give me a banana. Right. I think I'll definitely fling some poo at him.

To see what I mean, have a look back over your own emails or Facebook postings, or revisit your conversations with acquaintances, and I think you’ll agree: it’s invariably the plans and invites that include the word “definitely” that, as they say in the Bible, never come to pass.

Things like, “I’ll definitely read that book you loaned me” (book is returned unopened). Or “I’ll definitely call you next time I’m in town” (and we can go for a ride on my flying carpet), or “We’ll definitely keep your resume on file” (the circular file with the shredder beside it).

In other words, Never. Never. And Never again.

And if the word “definitely” is preceded by the word “should”, and/or followed by the word “sometime”, well, that’s just an extra layer of bull manure on a giant poo cake, if you ask me. Anyone who says something like “We should definitely get together for drinks sometime” is basically telling you they will forever be washing their hair or having their molars cleaned on the Friday evening in question, and you should definitely get more cozily acquainted with your local cable offerings.

Years ago, a friend of mine moved to a small city about an hour away and since then her emails have been littered with promises to “definitely” come for a visit and meet me for dinner, or how we “should definitely do [whatever] sometime.” So far, no dice. Whatever, indeed.

We'll definitely keep your resume on file. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk....

As with many things, it comes down to language and its use as a means of both clarification and obfuscation. (See my piece entitled “Just say No to Low-Hanging Fruit!”, for example.) Years ago, when I was working as a sportswriter (!) for a major Canadian news company, I was blessed with an editor who warned us all, among other things, about the dangers of using too many adjectives, adverbs, and other decoration in our work — it’s the literary equivalent, he said, of “thou dost protest too much.”

Come to think of it, my high-school English teachers said much the same thing: either a sentence can stand on its own, or it can’t — in which case you either need to do more research, more ruthless editing, or just take the whole thing out behind the shed and shoot it.

Same with promises and commitments: people who have to get all wide-eyed and sweaty and tell people they’re “definitely” going to do something are probably doing what we like to call “lying.” Either that or they are car salesmen – which amounts to the same thing. Their definitelys are right up there with “Your call is important to us!” and the empty thanks for our call that we endure (on our own air time) every time we call Bell or Rogers.

My advice to the Definitely people (the advice that won’t get my blog rated as “adult”, anyway) is to grow a set. Really. Just put on your Big Girl/Boy Pants and get to the point. If you want to do something with the rest of us, pick a time and a date, and say “let’s do it.”

And if you don’t, just say so. Yes, it can be hard for some folks to hear that someone doesn’t want to join them for dinner, or read a book that they themselves have really loved, or spend a Friday evening looking at their slide show of their family’s visit to Disney World. But a quick shot of  polite rejection now is far preferable to the last-minute cancellation that includes the words “dying aunt” or a fake cough.

That’s my two cents on this one. If you need more clarification, you should give me a call sometime and I’ll definitely explain it to you in more detail.

Definitely.

Do or do not. There is no "definitely."

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