Buffy: [to Giles] Uh-oh, you have but-face.
[Giles looks confused]
Buffy: You look like you’re gonna say ‘but’.
Words are important to me. I’m a writer; words are my life. As far back as I can remember I’ve enjoyed some word games (puns, limericks) and detested others (guilt trips, shaming statements). I’m a card-carrying member of the Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say Club.
But is a course correction, a turn in the road, a change in the meaning of what preceded it or in what we expect to come after it.
- He was going to answer the phone but then thought better of it. (He didn’t answer the phone.)
- She went with her friend to the restaurant but didn’t order anything. (She didn’t do what one normally does in a restaurant.)
- Pilots thought they spotted debris on the water, but it turned out to be fishing equipment. (The objects were not what they thought they were.)
- I wanted to go out with you, but I was busy. (I didn’t want to go out with you at that time.)
- I know you want your toy, but we didn’t bring it with us. (You can’t have your toy.)
- You may say you’re warm now, but it’s cold outside and you’ll need your jacket. (I know better than you.)
- I’m sorry I hurt you, but you shouldn’t have made me angry. (It’s your fault.)
- I know you want your toy, and I forgot to bring it with us. (I empathize.)
- You’re warm now, and I know it’s cold outside so we’ll bring your jacket just in case. (You are warm now, and I could be wrong about how the cold will affect you. Just in case, we’ll have the jacket.)
- I’m sorry I hurt you, and I felt really angry. (I’m taking responsibility and apologizing, though there should be more to the apology than this.)
I’m Sorry, but “I’m Sorry” Isn’t an Apology
Ha! My husband had a terrible habit of saying "but," and a few years ago I trained him into saying "and" instead. It makes SUCH a huge difference with the kids, with the tone of our conversations and with the discussions he has with coworkers. I'm so glad someone else can articulate the importance of this word choice.