The Saying I Hate the Most in “The Sound of Music”
You can know a person by the language they use, love, and detest. And by “they” I mean “me” which agrees in number with “person” in the singular, even though “they” is plural, and by “you” I mean “you” — the reader, of course.
I can agree pronouns that way, too, because I’m a trained professional. Bare with me. For you on Zoom — bear with me. No Zoombombing here. Without further adieu (or so longs, or farewells, or auf wiedersehens, or goodbyes) …
Recently, the girlfriend and I rewatched The Sound of Music. As a conscious member of the human race born in America in the 1960s, I know almost the entirety of it by heart. It was delightful to watch (and sing along with) again. “Fa — a long long way to run” Ah, I see what you did there! You English-accented Austrians, you. It doesn’t hurt that Mary Poppins/Mary Poppins is my favorite person/film of all time, besides the girlfriend. I mean, she’s practically perfect in every way. I’ll let you, dear reader, sort out the pronoun reference there.
On her way out of the Abbey, Maria says, “When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.”
My back stiffened. My skin crawled as if someone had scratched a chalkboard, not one of those new-fangled white boards either, a true blackboard, the kind that a self-respecting teacher could bring a class to spine-tingling ruin with just one scrap of her nails. It’s one of my all-time least favorite phrases. How could it be in this gem of a movie classic?
I’m sure this saying has been compared ad nauseum to “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” Thanks for that one, Clarence.
I’ve come up against difficulties in my life — breakups, family deaths, suicides, premature dog, cat, mouse, and turtle deaths, the usual ups and downs of life — and usually someone has offered those trite words of wisdom. And I’d throw up in my mouth just a little more each time.
Okay, so with a little looking around, it comes to pass that that statement is not Biblical and not even original to The Sound of Music. Rather it’s attributed to all of the following: Alexander Graham Bell, King Ethelred the Unready, Oscar Hammerstein, or Helen Keller, all notable personages in their own right.
It’s still drivel. That got me thinking about other words and phrases I detest, considering my love for the history of the English language and etymologies. Here are a few.
The detestable phrase list
“Back in the day” — Because the word “Before,” or “Once” or the phrase “Long ago” just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore.
“It is what it is” — And that phrase was what it was when it was. Circularity ad infinitum ad nauseum. Let’s apply less thought to little thinking.
“Sucks to suck” — Door-to-door vacuum salesman’s motto. I mean, if you’re selling vacuums door- to-door in this day and age or even back in the day, it sucks to suck. It is what it is.
“Not my chair, not my problem” — Associated with a previous gf so natch I detest it. Appropriately modified — “not my personality disordered gf, not my chair, not my problem.”
“On fleek” — I think of the Starfleek Academy. — “to boldly eye makeup as no one has eye makeupped before!” On what? Yeah, there’s a reason that phrase was used back in the day, and not now. It is what it is.
Fun phrase sand sayings list
What’s a list of detestable phrases without a similar list of phrases I love. This list runs quite long. Some of these are frequent go-tos, while others have such individual cache that they require a sharp surgical strike and very concise context to use at all. Here are a representative few:
“If it’s Tuesday, it’s Taco Tuesday ™” — a recent favorite as we’ve begun a tradition of Taco Tuesday at home over the last couple months. Just like mom used to make.
“Do or do not. There is no try.” — Yoda, to you, Sir, bow, I do.
“Do your work.” — Always applicable. Especially when I procrastinate.
“Thou shalt not pass!” — I used to have a stamp from former gf who wanted me to use it on student papers. I never did. That would be akin to treating waitstaff like crap, something I won’t do.
“These aren’t the droids you are looking for.” — No, but These Are the Comma Rules You Are Looking for. See what I did there?
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” — I’ve watched a lot of Star Wars in my time, currently, and back in the day. Use the force, Luke, and follow the link.
Elsa: “What’s this?”
Indy: “Ark of the covenant.”
Elsa: “Are you sure?”
Indy: “Pretty sure.”
Take it as a lesson — never, ever say you’re 100% certain. That’s the time you’ll be wrong. Learn humility from Indiana Jones.
“You’re good. You’re good. You’re good.” — Navigator SpongeBob SquarePants, 1st class
“This is this.” — Robert DeNiro at his most loquacious, in The Deer Hunter.
“T.A.H.I.T.I. — It’s a magical place” — Seen the Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series several times over. Have the T-shirt. Hey Whedons — hire me!
Lee G. Hornbrook grew up in the San Fernando Valley. He has lived on a sailboat and taught English in every time zone in the continental United States. His Medium publication Valley Dude is about language and writing, movies, literature, and much more. He is at work on a memoir. Find him on Twitter @awordpleaseblog and at his personal blog A Word, Please.