Really is a word we really use really a lot. Really. In fact, every few sentences, really. I am not really sure why. Now, really! There is no need to get uppity about this. It’s really just a case of trying to understand the reason for the popularity of this really annoying word. Because, actually, in most cases, you should really use ‘very’, instead. Is it really necessary constantly to assure our listeners that we are really truthful about everything we say? Has there really ever been any suggestion that we are lying? Similarly, when we are told something extraordinary, we automatically retort, “Really?” Do we really expect the other person to reply, “No. Not really”? One of my ex-bosses – a headmaster of Eton meets retired colonel, type – used to voice his disapproval (and lack of ability to provide a quick enough response to the situation) by uttering, in a thunderous tone, “Really!” in the hope that the staff would shudder and quake.
We also use this word as an opinion softener. For example:
“Do you like marzipan?”
“Not really.” Why not just say “No”? In this case really provides a form of apology for giving a negative response.
Other examples of really uses:
As a moderator of advice:
“You really shouldn’t do this.”
“I really don’t know.”
“She is really nice.” (As opposed to ‘un-really’ nice?)
There is a myth going around that there are more words in English than in any other European language. We really ought to dispel it.
Or live up to it, really.
Or perhaps the Coalition could tax it. Really!