Friday, May 09, 2008

The New Conversational Dictionary of America: "They"

They (n. third person plural) - An unidentified, unqualified, unquantified group of people who are often invoked during conversation as an authoritative body to support an idea regardless of how bizzar the idea might be. The word is most often found in the phrase "they say . . ." then proceeded by a statement with an unknown truth value associated with it and an unknown authoritative weight as no one know who 'they' really is. 'They' can range anywhere from professors, institutes, universities, celebrities, bums on the street, a TV show, a work of fiction, a magazine, a friend and everything in between and beyond what was just mentioned. 'They' might even refer to no person or no collective body of people, but in fact is a figment of the imagination where 'they' really translates into the phrase, "in my opinion". 'They' is often an opinion and can be nothing more than an opinion becuase the individual flinging about the authoritative 'they' has not done the research enough into the subject at hand to be informed enough to make a real statement supported by real facts. So, instead, the 'they-sayer', wanting to sound authoritative, well read, and smart will appeal to the mysterious 'they'.

Similar phrases used in a similar manner: "Some say", "Some people say", "It is said", "they've said", and "NPR said".

8 comments:

Maureen said...

I think Chesterton said something similar-- that people won't believe a named expert, but if "they" say something, well then it must be true.

Gillimer said...

The lapidary GKC phrase was about how "people who will believe nothing on authority will believe anything on no authority."

At least, that is how they quote him.

Gillimer said...

From THE SUPERSTITION OF DIVORCE:
"In fact I am certain that if I said casually, at a sufficient number of tea-tables, that corners made children squint, it would rapidly become a universally received dogma of popular science. For the modern world will accept no dogmas upon any authority; but it will accept any dogmas on no authority. Say that a thing is so, according to the Pope or the Bible, and it will be dismissed as a superstition without examination. But preface your remark merely with "they say" or "don't you know that?" or try (and fail) to remember the name of some professor mentioned in some newspaper; and the keen rationalism of the modern mind will accept every word you say."

Paul Cat said...

at least I know I am following in the footsteps of giants. Hopefully I am standing on their shoulders and not just following them.

Barb said...

I've been a victim of "they sayers" myself. You are so correct: "they sayers" use this tactic to get their own opinion across without appearing to actually have expressed the opinion themselves: "well I don't know, but that's what THEY say."

LarryD said...

You know what they say....because I don't

Jen M said...

You've figured out Jennspeak!!!

Santiago Chiva de Agustín said...

http://catholicblogs.blogspot.com/#A

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