I’ve got a couple of pet-peeves (don’t we all?) but one of them has become so predominant in our culture that I feel the need to mention it to you, lest you find yourself being interviewed by the press, or speaking to an audience of international diplomats. Please be aware that I’m telling you this knowing that it is nitpicky and specific (as all pet-peeves are), but I bring it to your attention as a public service…and because I love you.
Here it is: I cannot stand “As a….” introductions. When people preface an opinion with a qualifying clause that is meant to lend them irrefutable authority, I immediately discount what they are saying.
Let me give you an example:
Now read that statement without the “As a Mom.” It has equal impact, right? The “As a Mom” is meant to add some sort of credential to the speaker, setting her up as an undeniably authoritative (or in this case, sympathetic) voice — but all it really does is make the listener defensive, as if they cannot possibly disagree with the statement without challenging the very notion of this woman’s motherhood!
Do fathers not also get their feelings hurt by teenagers and wish their kids knew that their intentions were good? How about teachers? Grandparents?
Furthermore, it’s obvious from the rest of the statement that the speaker is, in fact, mother to the teenagers in question, which makes it redundant…and you know how we feel about redundancy. (We feel that it’s redundant).
Here’s another example:
Now, there’s a lot wrong with this statement, no matter how you feel about the premise, but we’re going to leave all that alone and focus on the introductory “As a…” phrase, which is the part that’s meant to be inarguable.
Does this mean that if I’m Muslim I can’t agree, or if I’m Christian, I can’t disagree? Well, yes, because the speaker has staked out an unassailable position of authority on the matter by introducing the statement this way.
[And don’t you get the feeling that if you were to question this person in even the gentlest way about why they feel the way they do, all you’d get is, “Well, I’m a Christian,” meaning, If you were a Christian, you’d understand and agree, but since you don’t, you obviously aren’t?]
You see and hear this all the time these days. “As a man…As a working woman…As a penguin who’s suffered from anal fissures…” My objection is not at all to people (or penguins) having opinions, but rather to the false rhetorical construct of resting one’s opinions on an introductory clause that is intended to obviate any possible contradictions, or lend some modicum of special authority to what follows.
Here’s something I overheard recently:
As a Literature major, I really object to the posthumous release of Harper Lee’s second novel.
What? You object to Go Set a Watchman because you spent your undergrad years writing papers about other people’s books? How does that even make sense?!
You can object because you feel it undermines the social justice statement of To Kill a Mockingbird, or damages Lee’s legacy, or because you suspect there was something unethical in Lee’s lawyer’s “discovery” of the manuscript, or because you read it and it wasn’t good….but how does being a Lit major tell us anything about your objection?
All that statement is meant to do is assert a level of expertise that may or may not exist (and put all you Econ and Bio and History majors in your place. I would suggest you don’t bother challenging anyone who prefaces a statement with “As a Lit major…” because, as a Business major, you couldn’t possibly understand.)
The biologically-related Snarky Assbadger and I like to make a game of “As a…” statements. It’s fun, and we’re easily amused.
Do you get where I’m going with this?
My point is, if you’ve found yourself adopting this manner of speech, you should understand that — as with the use of the word like or literally — it actually weakens your claim to authority, which is not a plus if you’re intending to persuade someone of something, or establish yourself as an expert.
So you’re much better off deleting this phrase from your rhetorical bag of tricks. Like, literally deleting it.
As a speechwriter, I’m done ranting now…but as a Molson lover, I sincerely think we need to reevaluate the Electoral College.