Feature, Random Safari Express

It’s Not You; It’s Me

By Carlos Eton

There are many events, feelings, and situations that are universal in binding the human experience.  As humans we experience, encounter, or simply just know these things:  good, bad, love, hate, right, wrong.  Fortunately for us, most of us on the planet use language to help us convey and share these universal sensations and human characteristics.

Language can be often used to express these sentiments succinctly.  But language can also be used to subtly mask the true meaning of what a person really feels.  Let’s call it “anti-language”—phrases that don’t really mean what we think they mean.

Let’s call it “anti-language”—phrases that don’t really mean what we think they mean.

We hear it all the time.  For example, when a politician says, “I’m very sorry if the words that were spoken by me could have possibly offended someone.”  Yeah, right!  The very second the word “if” was muttered, the statement was no longer an apology.  In fact, instead of taking responsibility, the speaker has now quietly shifted the blame onto the person who has been offended. The words “could have possibly” also shift the blame to the listener.  And, to top it off, the passive statement “that were spoken by me” imply that the speaker is somehow a victim of circumstance rather than someone willing to responsibility for his or her actions.

Yes, that’s anti-language at work.  But anti-language mastery is not limited to just politicians or even Madison Avenue.  If you really want to witness anti-language rhetoric at work, all you need to do is ponder the words of THE BREAK-UP DISCUSSION.   We all know it—it goes something like this:

“Honey, we’ve been together a long time.  And we’ve really had some great memories.  And you really are a special person.  But I think we should see other people.  You should be with someone who appreciates you.  Please know, it’s not you … it’s me.  I hope we can still be friends though.” 

“Please know, it’s not you … it’s me. I hope we can still be friends though.”

And we all know, deep down, that the break-up discussion is nothing but anti-language.  Each sentence really conveys the opposite of what the speaker truly feels.

Keep in mind, though, that when people do break up with us, we can respond with equally appropriate anti-lingual responses.  I am partial to this one:

“Oh, Sweetie, I am glad you were frank about this.  Of course, we can be friends—I insist on it.  In fact, I want to invite you to my wedding next month.  I anticipated this discussion and I proposed to your sister this morning.  She said “yes!” and I know you’re happy for me!  We would love for you to be the maid of honor.  Also, your parents are paying for our honeymoon trip to Acapulco.  How cool is that?  And you’re right—I did find someone who appreciates me.  If these new developments may have possibly caused any discomfort an apology might possibly be forthcoming from me in the near future.

Yes. Anti-language at work.

I was going to end this piece with “If words written by me can possibly lead to your discomfort, this writer may offer his regrets in the near future” but I decided against it since the anti-language would have been rather obvious.


The Random Safari Express, a serial feature column by senior UVI Communication student and humorist Carlos Eton, celebrates comedy, philosophy, and the thousand (often ridiculous) random thoughts that pop into our heads during the quiet moments of our day.



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  1. Dennis Eborka says:

    The article perfectly identified that not all apology are from the heart and instead the individual seem to be apologizing to his or her follower be it politician or two persons in a relationship seem to phrase his or her words in such a way to make look he is not taking responsibility for the wrong or unfair treatment he committed but rather make it look as if he is the victim. Situation like this citing example from two persons in relationship whereby one of the parties has been looking for excuse to quit the relationship; this is called anti-languauge. This is universal and it frequently occurs in many relationship and this normally contains phrase or words like if, that, could, may, is an example of anti-languauge, it is mainly used by politicians to address his followers or constituent but other persons that are not politicians use the phrases especially for two persons in relationship.

  2. Kali Mills says:

    This article demonstrates a lot of thought and brings new knowledgeable contact with the term known as “anti-language.” The examples provided were exemplary and very interesting. The acquisition skills were also evident and in such a way as if I’ve experienced this before. This goes to show that as we live throughout the present day, we still have to practice and utilize how much value we can gain out of communicating even if we are just apologizing.

  3. Mia Davis says:

    This article contained numerous examples of anti-language. I now clearly understand what anti-language is and may be able to recognize it in the future. Knowing the definition of anti-language can help you understand a conversation more precisely. The author’s example provides a deeper understanding of what anti-language means and helps the reader understand what anti-language could look or sound like. Now that I know what anti-language phrases look like I can say that I have heard similar phrases multiple times in my life. Even I have used anti-language before without even noticing that I was doing it. Anti-language is another example of interpersonal communication that people use to communicate by using phrases that don’t really mean what we think it means. There is a wide variety of phrases that others use that can be considered anti-language. Sarcasm is a great example of what anti-language is because each sarcastic phrase means the opposite of what the speaker means.

  4. Melanie Adames says:

    The article “ It’s not you; It’s me, written by Carlos Eton was very eye opening for me. Learning about anti-language and the true meaning behind it made me want to learn more about it. For starters anti-language means phrases that don’t really mean what we think they mean. For example, the article stated that when you hear a politician say I’m very sorry if the words that were spoken by me could have possibly offended someone.” This article explained that the very second the word “if” was muttered, the statement was no longer an apology. I never knew that until now being that I was exposed to the definition of anti-language. We all experience fake apologies and reverse phycology now and then and those are examples of anti-language.

  5. This article is stating that not everyone who apologizes means it from the heart. It mentioned instead of of an individual apologizing to someone, or two people who might be in a relationship can put their words in a way that makes it look like he or she is not taking responsibility for their actions. This means that you and a person can have a conversation but they will twist it to make it seem like you’re the bad person and act like they’re the victim like you did them something. An example of this is a relationship between two people in which he or she is looking for an excuse to end the relationship. Words like if, may and could are examples of anti-language.

  6. Janelle Casey says:

    Communication is a means by which we learn, grow, and have relationships. there are three ways that communication can serve to help us in our relationships.

    We may use communication for its Constitutive function. this form of communicating is simply geared to building a relationship. every message and response add to what the relationship is. It may change, it may strengthen, or it mar sour depending on what is said and done. the couple in the article evidently had a relationship that got to a point where the girl felt that they should separate. their communication had gone downhill and had a negative effect on the relationship.

    Instrumental communication is taking into consideration your situation and choosing your combinations of words and tone to steer that situation into the way you want it to go. The girl in the article used language like this. The very conversation that most people refer to as “the break-up talk” is an example of the instrumental function of communication.

    Indexical Communication is a kind of communication that indicates the person in charge. In the relationship from the article, it is suggested that the girl that initiated the break-up was the dominant person and the decision maker. If the boy, however, responds in the way that the author would have, it is also suggested that he rejects the dominance of role in the relationship.

  7. Kadejsha T says:

    The use of this common phrase is very easy to understand because honestly who has not heard of this. Using this phrase can have two meanings – sincerity and insincerity (most times insincerity). The apology within this break up discussion does not seem genuine. Most people use this excuse as a means to get out of a relationship they no longer want to be in without disclosing why. It was a very good use of the cliche phrase.

  8. Brittney Anderson says:

    I enjoyed reading this article. I do believe that language is indeed the way we as individuals communicate our thoughts, ideas, feelings, etc. However, I also agree that some individuals often communicate via anti-language, using phrases they do not mean. This is why I believe that sometimes it is necessary to look at other cues of communication, for example, body language and facial expressions, for in some situations, these cues allow us to know how sincere individuals are. An example, as mentioned in the passage, can be a breakup. In this situation, the individuals refer to how great memories and experiences were and the person being as unique as they claim why they want to end the relationship. This statement lets us know that they want to end the relationship, but in the best way they can, something caused their mind to change, whether it be falling out of love or just the situation. As a result, I agree with the idea of anti-language.

  9. This article was very informative. I now have a clearer understanding of how ant-language is used. Here, anti-language is used in the context of a breakup, and is intended to ease the person’s feelings in the knowledge that it was not their fault, but the fault of the dumper. Like he or she said in their statement “it’s not you, it’s me,” this is a vague statement that could mean anything, because it sounds better than saying that they want to pursue someone else, or they don’t see a future with that person.

  10. Wilah-Marie Baptiste says:

    Allow me to be the devil’s advocate. I do believe that anti-language is the best term to describe this phenomenon. I believe that this can be a form of sarcasm because anti-language would mean that one is against language. Now, no one in their right mind is against language as it is a vital part of society and human interaction. “Anti” is a prefix that means against or opposite of. A better definition of what is being described in this arcade is facetious, irony, or, since we want to be the opposite, antiphrasis. Antiphrasis is defined by Merriam-Webster as the use of a word opposite to its meaning. However, the article was well done. It was a rather humorous read. It was not too long or short an brought up a rather interesting topic, since we are entering that part of the year where politicians are feigning for support.

  11. Jackline j. James says:

    Communication in this article if it is not stated in the right context is always misconstrued. In this article, the writer uses great examples to portray the message. the analogy used is typical conversations that happen every day. In her narrative, she is being honest and to the point. The points raised on communication being our thoughts, feelings, and ideas are true and bring out the true nature of everyone in the way we express ourselves. I enjoyed this piece of writing because of the openness and the level of honesty displayed by the lovers in this article. Anti-language can be expressed in different ways without hurting each other.

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