I’ve figured out that the most common phrase used by parents (myself included) is ‘come on then’. It is used innumerable times throughout the day, mostly to chivvy the little ones along.
I cannot count the number of times I catch myself (and hear other parents) uttering this phrase.
‘Come on, then’ has to be the most common phrase used by parents the world over, closely followed by ‘pick that up’
I say it’s ‘mostly’ used to get the kids to hurry up but very occasionally it’s also used as an excuse to get out of speaking to someone you either a) don’t find any common bond with (a polite way of saying you don’t like them) or b) just need to get away from, be that because you are late for something, are losing the will to live or just because you’ve reached the age where humouring someone is as pointless as pushing water uphill.
So, yes, occasionally, you can deploy the ‘come on then’ phrase as a kind of get-out clause, like I said, when you’re due somewhere else... because children are great excuses for just about anything.
Of course, at that stage, the generic ‘come on then’ is no good - it needs qualifying with something else, which we’ll come to in a minute.
The other point to note, however, is that it must be said with an air of resignation, almost as though you are announcing something you don’t really want to do but must, out of a sense of duty and general righteousness.
In those circumstances, deployment of the ‘come on then’ phrase will go something like this: ‘Come on then, you’ve got your homework to do/we’ve got to get home for your tea/it’s almost your bedtime/you’re up early in the morning/mummy will wonder where we are (she won’t at all, she’ll be trying to remember what to do when you suddenly get unexpected free time) and so on.
But if ‘come on then’ is the most uttered phrase by parents in the world (I reckon even people in other countries use their versions of it), then running a close second will be ‘don’t drop that there’, followed swiftly by ‘pick that up’. Because, I don’t know about your children, but the minute mine walk through the door, they have a habit (at the moment at least) of kicking off their shoes (one usually ends up in the hallway, the other one somewhere else) and dropping their coats/jumpers/bags etc on the floor.
Speaking of which, I notice half their tea normally ends up down there as well, with muggins here on clean-up duty.
Anyway, errr... ‘Come on then, I need a drink’. Sorry, I mean, ‘It’s bed time for the kids, honest.’
Yeah-no, no-yeah... the things people say
Talking of oft-used phrases, here’s another one which people use a lot and when you start to think about it, it’s very confusing.
It’s the ‘yeah-no’ combination, which is the verbal equivalent of a swift left-right jab to the noggin.
It goes like this: typically, someone will ask you a question about something low priority, such as ‘So, I see you’re off camping this year for your hols?’. This (mostly) results in the response: “Yeah-no.” Ultimately, of course, ‘yeah-no’ means ‘yes’. But what’s going on here?
Well, because a) this isn’t Radio 4 and I don’t have access to a linguist of distinction to untangle the psychological motivations behind said speech patterns and b) because I can’t be bothered, here’s my layman’s take on why many people use the ‘yeah-no’ combo as an initial response.
a) They have no idea what they’re talking about but decide to bluff their way out of the situation with a non-commital response which will be refined once they read the other person’s body language.
b) They do know what they’re talking about, they’re just in the habit of saying ‘yeah-no’ instead of ‘yes’, because what ‘yeah-no’ really means is you agree with whatever was said but that there’s a funny story attached to it and you’re going to tell them it, so get ready.
Very occasionally, people use the ‘yeah-no no-yeah’ combo but we literally do not have room to talk about it now.