Psych paradox – It goes without saying….
In an early episode of Psych (Season 3, episode 5 – [amazon asin=B00LTO33JQ&text=Disco didn’t die. It was murdered!]), the protagonist Shawn (James Roday) observes an interesting paradox:
“Why people always say, ‘it goes without saying’, yet still feel compelled to say the thing supposed to go without saying”.
That certainly is something to think about, especially seeing how often I use this expression (in serious writing as well as in the less serious manner of speech) – and yet, always feel compelled to say what is supposed to go without saying. Perhaps we simply think that the person we are talking to is somehow inferior, intellectually challenged, an ‘idiot’….?
In order to break this down, we should ask ourselves the following: when are the occasions we most use this expression (which for me is in written language, rather than spoken one)? Yet, often enough, I find myself saying this and following with a detailed explanation of why it was supposed to go without saying. Paradoxically, the detailed explanation comes, it seems to me, in order to justify the expression in the first place. You no longer want to point out what was supposed to go without saying, but rather to justify the statement ‘it goes without saying’.
I see two possibilities here:
1. We might simply be afraid of silence (sedatephobia) after such a statement, a certain verification is needed that the other understood what was supposed to go without saying:
The interesting part is exactly that after such a statement, we are compelled to explain why we want it (it has the new X and the feature Y has been improved, and don’t forget that it is far superior to [other brand] because of Z, etc.). In effect looking for a confirmation from the other that they understood us (I don’t think there is word for this pathology).
2. I also have a suspicion that in our education, our parents constantly asked why we want something. And we had to find certain justifications (in plural!) for that. It never went without saying. You had to prove why what you wanted/desired was worth wanting/desiring and ultimately getting. So in our adult life, things no longer belong to simple wants. They need justifications, they need pragmatic purposes, or aesthetic appeals, etc. The result of which is that even when things go without saying, we are compelled to explain ourselves as we used to in front of our parents.
Interestingly enough, Gus (Dulé Hill, also from Psych), observes another problem with speech that is relevant here:
“Why do people say, ‘I could care less’ when they mean ‘I couldn’t care less’?
Though less often, this happens too. The interesting part here is that our desires are transposed into something else. I could, of course, care less, but I do not. And I choose not to, it is my conscious will to care as much about my wants as I would like to.
I couldn’t care less is of a different order. Regardless of my wants/desires, I simply cannot bring myself to care as much as I would want to. Even if that means to care less than I want to. Caring is wholly out of my control (Impulse control disorder – which seems to be on the rise in the US as the next Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders is supposed to include a new chapter on this).