Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Just" = 4-letter word

I started another post about my new obsession du-jour (effect of left brain vs. right brain dominance on, well, everything) but got inspired for something possibly better, as only 2:30am Saturday night/Sunday morning conversations can do.

The word "just" is an awful word. My first note-worthy experience of recognizing its negative nature was at NSO (New Student Orientation) week during first-year uni ten years ago. I was sitting at a table in the cafeteria with a group of students and a random professor. The prof asked if we had picked majors, what courses we were taking, etc. One student replied, "I'm just doing an Arts degree."

Just an Arts degree.

The professor said to him to remove the word "just".

"It's not 'just' an Arts degree, it's a degree."

Basically, say it proudly, and don't imply it's less than it is.

More recently, when I was biking the Biking for Breakfast challenge someone was recording some pre-ride interviews at North Cape before we left. He asked if we could chat, and I said of course. The "interview" started and I stated my goal was to bike to Charlottetown.

"You're just going to Charlottetown?" he responded.
"Hey now," I reply cheekily, "I'm not going 'just' to Charlottetown. It's a 175-km ride away. That is not 'just' a short little ride. The furthest I ever biked in one day was 105 kilometres. This is an extra 70 kilometres"

He agreed. I was not going "just" to Charlottetown.

More recently in the almost wee hours of the night, a just-graduated culinary student told me he would be "just" a cook now. He was undermining the discipline he spent two years studying. Which leads to why I don't like the word. It implies too little, something unimpressive. You are implying to whomever is listening to you that he/she should not be impressed.

The Arts degree would not be as impressive as a science degree, it wasn't as good.

A 175-km bike ride in one day is not an accomplishment.

A career choice shouldn't be respected.

So no more "just", please.


Ken Trenholm said...

Hey Jen!

So happy you came out for Biking for Breakfast ( I so much agree with your belief about "just". I too think that very little in life is "just" but I'm wondering why we use it so often. Perhaps because we are Canadian -- seriously. The "just" makes any accomplishments that we make less of an accomplishment. I'm wondering if Canadians have a monopoly on using the word "just" to explain accomplishments?

By the way, I too only biked to was one of the hardest rides for me ever.


Jen said...

I think 'just' is used when one is comparing something and feels he/she is tackling the lesser accomplishment. Perhaps feeling he/she should have done more.
But good on us! We biked alllll the way from North Cape to Ch'town! :) I had so much fun doing it do and am definitely aiming to do the whole thing next year (weather pending - I'm a wuss in rain and/or headwinds).