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No One Is Ever ‘Just Kidding’

The passive-aggressive's shield of choice and one of the most toxic expressions in the English language.

by
Kathy Shaidle

Bio

July 27, 2012 - 7:00 am

“Just kidding” is a phrase used by a large variety of people, from insecure high school girls to master pranksters after a successful hoax.

Its usage and meaning can vary subtly, but the phrase generally is used to indicate that what you just said is a lie or a joke. Also, if you have ever said the phrase, God automatically takes 5 years off your life.

Just kidding.

But the older I got, the more obvious it became to me that “just kidding” was a kind of reverse inoculation — an attempt to take the sting out of a cruel, deeply personal dig at someone else.

It’s used primarily by witless oafs and is an almost infallible indicator of the speaker’s creative and emotional bankruptcy.

Except when my husband says it to me, of course…

I’ve tried to “train” him to stop doing it but I’m also temperamentally and philosophically averse to “husband training.”

The only tactic that’s worked so far is for me to reply somberly, “No one is ever just kidding” and hope that while I’m mouthing those words, I manage to look and sound as imposing as an arch, towering, Puritan witch-finder general pronouncing his sentence of death.

(That’s a pretty tough persona to pull off when you’re a female demi-dwarf, but that has never stopped me from trying.)

My husband sputters something like, “That’s not true” but has yet to convince me otherwise.

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