In an earlier post (“The Decline of Straight Talk and the Rise of Linguistic Dross,” December 28, 2012) the tendency in contemporary English of all stripes to interlard meaningless syntactic units was discussed and analyzed for what it is, essentially a linguistic apotropaism. Listening seven years later to the BBC on a regular basis impels me to return to this topic.
Because English is now the world’s lingua franca, the BBC World Service is a very good source for the derivation of linguistic data of all kinds, including how people actually speak when interviewed and not reading from a script. One thing that is notable is the incidence of superfluous syntactic material such as the phrase “to be honest with you” (and variations on this model). Another such piece of linguistic dross is the high-frequency phrase “having said that.” Such phrases add nothing to the communicative efficiency of any given utterance and are to be avoided as much as possible. The only possible reason for their constant intercalation must be the speaker’s psycholinguistic lack of confidence in what is being said. Again, it falls under the purview of apotropaism. Such is the temper of the times that speakers are constantly wary of being caught out when it comes to the validity of their utterances.