Obviously is a word that is increasingly becoming over-used, obviously. I was watching the ‘Hairy Bikers Meals on Wheels’ and they had recruited the advertising firm Saatchi and Saatchi to rebrand the aging Meals on Wheels service in a bid to attract more volunteers, because obviously the council are not a top advertising firm and could not do it by themselves. However in Saatchi & Saatchi’s focus group I was shocked at how often the advertising executives used the word ‘obviously’ before some ad-related spiel to a bunch of pensioners and volunteers. I have had a little bit to do with advertising in my past and even I didn’t know what he was talking about. Obviously what he was talking about wasn’t obvious enough.
Then there are the people who work in my office. Obviously they’re all educated to at least GSCE level but apart from using terrible grammar, horrific spelling and fallacious sentiment, obviously in letters and emails, they also use the word ‘obviously’ at the start of every other sentence when talking to customers on the phone. Obviously I’m no genius wordsmith myself, having dropped out of ‘A’ level English in favour of a PhD in the local pub, but there are certain standards in the English language that us Brits have until recently been admired for (not least because we came up with the bloody language in the first place). While I fully embrace the fact that language in general is extremely fluid, meandering and evolving with every generation and cultural shift, there are certain staples of the English language that need to remain otherwise how are we expected to understand each other?
Maybe I’m just one of those folk who get caught up in the middle of cultural shifts, being of an age young enough to fully embrace modern technology yet old enough to completely disregard ‘text-speak’ as vulgar, brash and completely irrational. Or maybe, just maybe I’m way too pedantic for my own good? Obviously I am opening myself up to berating from liberal creative types who no doubt will be labelling me a ‘language fascist’ and obviously they would have a case but before I go off on too much of a tangent let me bring this back to my original gripe; the over-use of the word ‘obviously’ in every day speech.
To give you an idea of why this is bugging me so much I’ll give you an example of phrases that obviously I’ve heard people say today. In each case may I point out that the use of the word ‘obviously’ is obviously surplus to requirement or indeed used in the completely wrong context:
“Obviously I can’t speak for anyone else on this matter”
“Obviously it’s difficult to put down in simple words why obviously this is incorrect”
“But obviously we can’t do that sir, because that is not part of our service”
“Obviously from reading the details of the letter we obviously can’t do that”
“That’s obviously something we can do”
“Obviously for us it’s a simple task”
“Obviously you need to allow for a few minutes to allow the unit to warm up”
“You’re obviously upset”
“Can’t you obviously do that yourself?”
“That’s something you can obviously do yourself”
“But obviously sir we are trying our best”
“Obviously the way to do this is to…”
“Obviously you need to fill the form in and send it to them yourself…”
“Obviously I don’t want to be working late midweek”
“Obviously you’ve just used the word obviously way too much on that phone call. Obviously you have no idea how often you’re obviously doing it!” – me to a colleague.
Obviously I will agree that in some cases the word ‘obviously’ obviously works in that sentence that is until obviously you realise that what these people were talking about is definitely not obvious to the person they’re talking to. Now before I obviously go too far with the use of the word ‘obviously’ I’ll leave you with a task; and that is obviously over the next week look out for how often the people around you use the word ‘obviously’ and you’ll see why it’s so obvious to me that this obvious use of the word obviously is obviously becoming a f**cking epidemic! Obviously.