Meanings: “Just Saying”

March 11, 2011

I’ve found myself moved to notice — and not in a positive way — the increasingly frequent uses of the expression “just saying” (or “just sayin'”).  Honesty compels me to add that I took notice when I heard the words come out of my own mouth.  Why did I say that, I wondered?  What did I mean in saying it?

Here’s the first definition offered in the Urban Dictionary:

“1.  a term coined to be used at the end of something insulting or offensive to take the heat off you when you say it.”

Several other meanings are offered, too, all close cousins of this, including these two:

“2.This term is used after you inject your statement/opinion into a conversation. Generally, this statement/opinion is non-factual, so by saying “just sayin'”, you are clarifying that this statement/opinion is unprovable and it is just a thought off the top of your head.

“4.  This often rage-inducing saying is typically preceded by a blatantly honest statement that’s likely to insult at least one person with it’s cold, bitter truth. Frequent usage of this saying can spread it’s use like a highly aggressive plague, eventually saturating almost all conversations, particularly on the Internet where anonymity encourages impolite truths.

Notice that #2 takes the statement it qualifies to be “unprovable,” whereas #4 supposes the statement is a “cold, bitter truth.”   Well which is it?  From #1 I think we can see that the real force of the term is to have it both ways: to put a statement in play that you hope will be heard and have effect, but simultaneously to remove yourself from the saying of it.  It’s a fundamental denial of responsibility for something about which you should be taking responsibility–because the statement has emotional force–in making the statement.

Perhaps some people use the expression ironically, to underscore that they really ARE saying and meaning what they just said.  But the more common usage, I think, is a ploy to hit and run, to say something harsh and have the sayer disappear in the very saying.

I’m going to take care not to say “just sayin.'”  Words have meanings; meanings have consequences.  NOT “just sayin'”

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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