15 April, 2014

I know, right?

You may recall in your childhood someone advising you that you are what you eat. It is a rather true figure of speech which you can apply to other aspects of life: a job is who you are, or the people around you help define you. The last one is sort of interesting from a cultural perspective because it suggests social hybridization if you adopt aspects of a foreign culture into your own. Some people actively reject such concepts (think about your conservatives out there who renamed French fries: Freedom Fries), some choose to adopt only socially popular symbols, and then there is me. I'm a freaking sponge for this stuff generally. While I'm mostly aware of such language cues, and/or aspects of culture which are integrated into my life, there are occasionally those habits I adopt which I'm completely unaware.

Sometimes this happens within your own culture, for example the phrase: I know, right? Of course this is Generation-Y's phrase of agreement which either a) you're guilty of using too, or b) are annoyed to hell with it because you're likely a Generation Xer, or older. The question is why does it drive of you so absolutely mad? Is it because you  realize you've finally been incarcerated by the cultural barrier of age division? Is it because you're against the status-quo, or is it that it bothers you because you became self-aware of the phenomenon without having naturally adopted it and now feel isolated by finding yourself on the exterior of this social fad? You could of course forcibly adopt this signal and by doing so become auto-inclusive, assuming others see your actions as authentic, or you could just continue to ridicule the rest of us. 

Brit's have (or had) a similar expression that drove them mad too: Init? Short for: isn't it. Gen Xer's had: like seriously? and other expressions like simply: word. But in every sense of the matter it would seem this latest linguistic catchphrase is perhaps more grammatically correct compared to its predecessors. It's also a far better choice than an entire unnecessary sentence of empathetic agreement that would make you sound like a creepy Sherlock Holmes: "I completely agree with you, and completely feel connected to you as a human in this moment."

If you haven't figured it out yet, it was brought to my attention that I had adopted I-know-right-atitis after a short stint in Belgium with a group of Americans. It's annoyed my partner to no end. I suppose its better than the accent I returned with after living there for four months and which occasionally surfaces after watching foreign television or movies. I have other quarks too, like including the word bloody as a normal part of my everyday language since I was a child, or my constant use of C'est quoi? or that I now curse avidly in French.

You may be wondering why any of this is important. Well studies show that a person's ability to adapt and overcome childhood programming in language or accents directly relates to how we empathizes with those we interact with. Why do some people hold onto their accents (and mannerisms) their entire life, and some change overnight? Those who are capable of such adaptions, generally are better at seeing the world through the cultural lens of others (walking in another's shoes, so to speak).

The point is to let change (and culture) come over you, and you will find yourself a changed person. Look, I sort of like the person I am, and I wouldn't be who I am if it wasn't for all the bits and pieces that I've stolen from the people in my life. To quote Churchill, "to improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often".

Also, there's a bit of humanity in this phrase that evokes the entire: "we're all in this together". This is verbal affirmation from the people in your life that we're not all alone in this world and that we've found someone who may see the world similarly, even if for only moment. In essence, I know right becomes an instant signifier of who is with me and who is against me in this world.