The Blog

Look, Stop Saying "LOOK"

Sometimes a writer will use the word, 'look' to begin a line, but it will be in the context of a command as, "Look at the puppy," or "Look away before you turn to stone!"
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One of the side effects of the rise of Obama and accompanying Obamamania is the newly pervasive use of the word, 'look' to start any sentence, regardless of the contextual irrelevance of that word to the rest of the statement. Its frequent misuse by the man who gets more public face-time than any other human on the planet has created a verbal pandemic such that I now hear it everywhere all the time. In the hallways at work. All over the news and media be it radio, TV, online, or shouted by the town crier. I hear it at formal PTA fundraisers and at the AYSO referee's dinner. People who never thought to in the past start many a sentence with 'look' these days and whether they're saying, "Look, you're really making me angry," or, "Look, I wanted guacamole on my burger!" it has become an unconscious, embarrassing, annoyance.

In the age before Obama, starting a sentence with this word was reserved for bad film and television. It's a very common occurrence in low budget entertainment and often happens when an inattentive director allows it to be slipped-in by a weak actor at the start of a line of dialogue, even though that word is not in the original script. Yes, sometimes a screen or television writer will use the word, 'look' to begin a line, but unless he or she is a bad writer, it will be in the context of a command as, "Look at the puppy," or "Look away before you turn to stone!" So now you know that when you're watching any form of scripted entertainment and the actor says something like, "Look, I'm sorry, I thought your sister was you." Nine-out-of-ten times the "look" was thrown in by the actor and left there by the director (the writer isn't on the set, he's at home getting drunk because of what they're doing to his masterpiece).

Mr. President-elect Obama begins almost every unprepared sentence with "Look..." On the other hand, you won't hear it in his eloquent, rousing, passionate, speeches mainly because he's a fine writer and the speech was written and rewritten a dozen times or more. So why does it pop up during interviews and at press conferences? Originally it was probably a trick to give himself a half-second more to think about the question he was just asked. He may have developed it intentionally or unintentionally in high-school debate or at Harvard Law or even later during his first run for public office. But however Mr. Obama first came to use this word as often as he does is irrelevant because now it's really nothing more than a personal bad habit of speech.

The past eight years may have numbed us to all manner of grammatical butchery and other crimes of speech emanating from the highest office in the world, but those days are soon to be over and it's time for the madness to stop. To that end, I now add another rallying cry to the cacophony of rallying cries trumpeting Barack Obama into the White House in January: "Don't start sentences with 'look' unless you mean it!"

All of us, man, woman, child, Republican, Democrat, Lieberman, must take a stand against the insidious, improper use of this word. If we start now right at the top, we will hopefully, over time, see real change. Don't let our new president spend eight years like friendless W. who had nary a man to set him straight on the proper pronunciation of 'nuclear'. It's like that old saying, "Only your friends will tell you when you have spinach in your teeth." You're Barack's friend, right? Tell him yourself, why don't you? And get that leafy-green out of your own bicuspid while you're at it!