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7 Phrases That Are Great Signs It's Time to Stop Talking

Anyone who's ever watched a really lame, unoriginal stand-up routine knows that "We need to talk ..." is a magical red flag phrase that means you need to run away as soon as possible, because it means a woman is going to bore you to death or break up with you while boring you to death. Obviously, if there are problems in your relationship, a reasonable woman should deal with it by, I don't know, disappearing without a word or shooting you when you're not expecting it or something, I guess. I don't pretend to understand what these comics want.

But here's some phrases that signal some actual bad things coming that nobody wants any part of.

#7. "I'm Not a Racist, But ..."

I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this, because everybody knows that this phrase is inevitably followed up by something extremely racist. I do want to point out that it's pretty much impossible for any non-racist statement to follow this phrase just because of the way it's structured.

NotRacistBut.com

You'd have to either follow it with something that makes no sense, like "I'm not a racist, but I think black people and white people can both excel intellectually," or note a difference so neutral that there is no reason to point it out, like "I'm not a racist, but black people generally have darker skin than white people."

NotRacistBut.com

I guess occasionally someone wants to talk about the crime rate or income disparities between races and wants to throw in some caveats before they wade into a touchy subject, but anyone sensitive enough to discuss something that nuanced usually isn't going to toss out their entire viewpoint in half a sentence (the half after "I'm not a racist"). Anyone able to talk about a complex hot-button issue in an appropriate way has better and more specific caveats than the shitty old "I'm not a racist," which is apparently a good marker for illiteracy as well as racism.

NotRacistBut.com

By the way, the above screenshots come courtesy of I'm Not Racist, But ..., which is one of several blogs that track this phrase across the Internet, showing that despite how well-known and mocked it is, you still can't swing a dead LOLcat without hitting an "I'm not a racist but" tweet or comment.

#6. "I'm Not Afraid of What Anyone Thinks"

Not being afraid of what other people think is a good thing. Constantly telling other people this, however, is a red flag, signalling that you're not focused on the vital truths you are championing so much as the reactions you get from telling them.

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"I like to fart in elevators! What are you going to do with that?"

Other warning phrases along the same lines include "I tell it like it is" and "I'm outspoken and opinionated, and it might rub some people the wrong way." When you convince yourself that you are this TV character description, it goes a long way toward shielding yourself from finding out that you are wrong or said something stupid by allowing you to frame it as a bunch of closed-minded prudes/nerds/bourgeoisie being shocked that you are such a colorful individual. Of course they are calling you dumb because they can't handle your attitude, not because you claimed that horses were invented in the 1800s.

You get two kinds of statements out of this person. One, you get cliches they repeat from other people, which were possibly provocative and clever upon their first use, like the hoary "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle," or a mangled paraphrase from Douglas Adams that they don't really understand. Basically, it's an attempt to copy the edginess of someone smarter and more original than they are with the effectiveness of a preliterate child copying the Declaration of Independence.

Take a look at this firecracker.

I wonder what kind of monocle-popping in-your-face sass I can expect out of this one!

Statements truly worthy of noted shockmeister Stuart Smalley.

In addition to advice you can find in your grandmother's needlepoint, you'll also find this type:

Oh boy, I bet this one's going to be a real live wire. I wonder what kind of crazy and offensive tweets we're going to get on this account.

So they promise a lot, but quite often deliver poorly remembered quotes from provocateurs who are now deceased, advice found on Precious Moments bookmarks, and AOL chat room filler.

#5. "Plato's Allegory of the Cave"

This phrase usually sets off all the alarms that you are talking to someone who (1) has just discovered philosophy and (2) doesn't think anyone else has. Ninety-nine percent of the time when someone brings up the Allegory of the Cave, they are using it as a metaphor to talk about people living in a world where they only have a limited perception of reality, like the Matrix, and how some people get a chance to get outside of that and see all of reality, like Neo going outside the Matrix.


It is a good analogy, because learning about the real world is a lot like waking up in your own pee/food solution.

First of all, there is a lot more to the Allegory of the Cave than that simple overview, stuff that is mostly interesting to people who are really interested in philosophy, which doesn't include me. It also doesn't include most of the people who bring up the allegory. Secondly, given the wide popularity of The Matrix, that movie is a much simpler analogy to use for anyone who wants to talk about limited versions of reality.

I guess it depends on whether the priority is on getting your listeners to quickly understand your arguments so you can move on to make your point without having to retell and explain a story about caves and fires and shadows that some of them probably won't be familiar with, or whether the priority is to let people know that you read Plato once.

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"Today I learned he was a philosopher and not a type of modeling clay."

Also a warning flag is anyone who brings up the Prisoner's Dilemma game theory scenario, which in theory is often relevant as a useful insight into discussing how people make decisions, but in practice is almost always inserted clumsily as a badge of behavioral expertise or something. Ten percent of the time people bring it up because they think it is relevant, and 90 percent of the time because they just read about it in Discover Magazine or Mental Floss.

There's always the possibility that someone who brings up one of these things genuinely feels it's the best tool to explain what they're getting at, but once they start to pile up, there can be no mistake. If someone mentions the Allegory of the Cave, the Prisoner's Dilemma, Occam's razor and Schroedinger's cat in the course of their argument, just drop everything and get the hell out of there before they start telling you the fable about the scorpion and the frog.


Don't know if I'm remembering this one right.

#4. "Self-Diagnosed"

Self-diagnosed people can be at best the cause of an awkward social situation and at worst dangerous. If you're suffering from severe depression, the last thing you want is advice from people with mild mood swings who have diagnosed themselves as bipolar and tell you to avoid therapy and medication and just think more positive thoughts.

Even if you don't have the condition and you're just reading or listening for curiosity's sake, there's not really anything to be learned from people who are certain they have ADHD or Asperger's no matter what those lying doctors say, unless you want to learn what they imagine life is like for an ADHD or Asperger's sufferer.

Well-meaning websites like WebMD sometimes make things worse by printing bullet-point lists of symptoms for various conditions. The intent is for you to see if you have a bunch of symptoms, and if so, go to a professional and get officially diagnosed and then treated. But I guess there's a bit of human nature that makes many of us want to treat it like a Seventeen magazine quiz where we add up points (1 point for A, 2 points for B, 3 points for C ...), and if we score 15 or more, we're schizophrenic!

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"Oooh, looks like Susie has PTSD!"

Sure, sometimes it may be helpful for individuals to get coping tips from others with similar problems without going through intimidating medical professionals, but most people who like to speak at length about their self-diagnosis to strangers aren't just looking for help, they're looking to give it, including explaining authoritatively what the condition does or doesn't involve, saying what everyone in the same condition should do and even prescribing drugs sometimes.

Even if you believe in the helpfulness of Internet psychological self-diagnosis, I'm sure we can at least agree that someone self-diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma should be immediately sent to a doctor where they can hopefully find out it's just a cold. And that you should know just from the title that this one is going to be weird:


OK, yes, hair loss can be one of the symptoms, but usually a person's primary concern is the unimaginable pain.

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Christina H

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