Sort Of

Natalie Portman said “sort of” about three times in a one-minute span the other day.  I was listening as she talked about her new ballerina movie on NPR.  I thought perhaps she could use other words and phrases to describe her dancer film.

That’s what the dictionary says that Sort Of means somewhat or rather, though Natalie used in in a capacity that isn’t yet listed in the dictionary.

“Sort of” is now often used in casual conversation when someone is trying to describe something and maybe not confident in their ability to convey.

Example:  “Ballet sort of forces you to do things that your body sort of isn’t able to do?”

“Sort Of” statements like that begin sounding like one is in fact describing something, but then the person “sort of” loses confidence and throws in the towel with respect to describing anything. The “Sort Of” sentence basically ends sounding like a question- as if the describer is asking the asker if what’s being descibed is making any sense, whatsoever. Example:

“-that your body…sort of…isn’t able to do?”

Portman’s use of sort of stood out to me because I’d heard another Harvard grad who used sort of in casual conversation (Interesting note: I almost finished the sentence I’m in the middle of right now as follows: “…another Harvard grad who used “sort of” in casual conversation KIND OF often. Basically I’m a huge idiot) quite often.

So when I heard Natalie Portman say “sort of” 3 times in 1 minute, I thought of Becky Lou, the girl I met at a gay bar the first month I lived in Boston, who’d also graduated from Harvard- and get this, you’re not gonna believe this-Becky Lou had NAT PORTMAN for a lab partner. Where they perhaps developed a sort of constricted, elitist, I’m-real-smart-and-have-lots-of-positive-reinforcement-from-home-but-maybe-I’m-not-like-as-brilliant-as-I-think-I-am vernacular.

Which brings me to the sentence I thought of while cleaning the bathroom, (Yeah, I know it’s my week in the rotation, but um, ladies, maybe coulda cleaned up after you HAIR-CUT hmm? Conspicuous timing in the cleaning rotation for the HAIRCUT.) …So the sentence I thought of while squeezing the trigger of the tub cleasner along to the beat of TEMPTATION by New Order was this: “Hmmm, maybe shake up the vocab a little bit, HARRRR-VARRRRD?” The prior sentence made me step down off the fence and into the yard belonging to “Yeah, it’s worthy.”

Notes about this Post:

  1. In speech and writing I use empty words and idioms quite regularly. Examples: Maybe. Kind of. Quite. Very. Probably even “sort of” FAIRLY often.
  2. I recognize that Portman might have been nervous when she was talking to the NPR guy. And what’s with the high standard? She didn’t get a degree in English, so I could probably relax a bit with respect to this topic.
  3. I also recognize that Portman is hotter than sin and were I to encounter her in public I might say something like this:

“Hey, umm, Natalie Cole, I mean Portman geez ur hotter than sin Um hey I saw you in um The Professional which was like so cool wow ur like on the beautiful side of beautiful- I also saw you on that show- I think it was like a reality TV cooking sort of thing or was it like  a fashion model thing or wait, was it both?  Oh, no, it was Jessica Alba, oh yeah, they like made dresses for JessAlba and she wore the dress of the winning fashion contestant- oh and yeah, she looked so much hotter than Heidi Klum. I DON’T LIKE Heidi Klum she bugs me- anyway Jessica Alba was hotter than sin too geez OH YEAH DUH, you were on that cooking show, and you were (probably still are) vegan so they had to make you vegan food which was like challenging and whatnot – anyway um, I sort of… have a crush on you?- I hate my life I mean what’s the point?- Yeah so I love you let’s get married- but seriously what’s the point? I’m 29 and I slice meat for a living-

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