English language Uncategorized

Missing links

Q: Recently, I’ve noticed a more frequent use of the expression “having said that.” I think I’ve heard it most often from TV political reporters. It’s used without reference to something having been said, more as a linking expression akin to “and so.” Have you noticed this? It strikes me as yet another superfluous phrase that has slipped into common usage.

A: Yes, I’ve noticed this too. In many cases, the phrase “having said that” is a lazy connective device, along with “that said,” “that being said,” and others. What the writer really means is “I’ve finished saying that and now I’ll say this.” Such phrases can be plopped into sentences quite freely in an effort to make a speaker’s (or writer’s) thoughts seem more organized than they really are.

In some cases, though, these phrases do serve a purpose—to introduce an objection to something previously mentioned (“that being said, I think the evidence suggests otherwise”).

Recent draft additions to the Oxford English Dictionary include a half-dozen citations for this usage going back to the early 20th century. (Technically, these are phrases used to introduce concessive clauses.)

Here’s a 1908 quotation from a Canadian newspaper, the Manitoba Morning Free Press: “The story of Sir James Douglas might have been told in smaller compass … That being said, James Douglas certainly deserved a place among the makers of Canada.”

These phrases don’t bother me as long as they serve a legitimate purpose. But often they’re meaningless, and just enable the speaker or writer to jump from subject to subject with no real link in between.

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