Ways to Spell, “Drop Dead” (or “You’re an idiot”)

By Greg Baer M.D.

October 28, 2016

Because we have been taught to avoid the pain of disapproval, we also tend to avoid expressing disapproval to others in a way that is too severe, because generally that is followed by the sharp disapproval of the other person. So we’ve learned other ways to express our disapproval or detachment from people, ways that are more socially acceptable. In other words, we have learned clever ways to spell “Drop dead.” Following are some examples:

Recently George called me to complain about his wife. To be sure, she had plenty of flaws, but she wasn’t on the phone with me—George was—so I pointed out several of the ways that George was making his marriage unhappy by being selfish.
After a long pause, he finally responded by saying, “Okay.”

I laughed out loud. George demonstrated no understanding of a word I’d said, no agreement, and no interest in changing his selfishness. He had called just to complain, but he didn’t want to look stupid in his stubborn selfishness, so he said, “Okay.”

Ordinarily this word is used to indicate agreement, but now we regularly co-opt this word for a different reason. We use it to mean, “Yes, I hear you”—one of the criteria of the true meaning of “okay”—“but that’s all. I don’t agree with you. In fact, I’m hoping that if I say ‘okay,’ you’ll stop talking.”
“Okay” causes less contention than “Drop dead.”

You’re in a conversation where your partner—spouse, friend, child, parent—disagrees strongly with what you’re saying. You make a really good point, one that contradicts or even disproves their opinion, and they laugh. You’ve all been in this situation.

What is the meaning of the laugh? Derision, mockery, and criticism. In short, the other person is saying, “Drop dead and quit talking, because you’re really annoying me. Laughing AT you communicates all that without my using words that might embarrass me.”

The other day Cynthia called me for help with her unhappiness. She didn’t like what I was saying about her victimhood and became increasingly resistant and even snippy. “You called me for help,” I said, “and now you’re not only failing to listen but you’re being snotty in addition, to punish me for daring to contradict your belief that your unhappiness is everyone else’s fault.”

“Wow,” she said, with considerable underlying sarcasm and pretended pain.

Meaning? “How dare you tell me that I’m being snotty. Nobody else has ever had the courage to say such a thing. If I say ‘wow,’ perhaps I can escalate my victimhood to the point where you’ll stop offending me in this intolerable way.”

The Smile (especially the snide smile)
In the early 70s The Temptations sang, “Smiling Faces.” Among the lyrics:
Smiling faces sometimes pretend to be your friend . . .
Smiling faces, Sometimes they don't tell the truth.
Smiling faces, smiling faces tell lies and I got proof.

Because we yearn for smiles, people will sometimes smile at us during a difficult conversation in order to give us a false sense of congeniality, at which point they hope we’ll drop dead and go away.

Thank You
This is similar to the expressions above. People enjoy hearing the words “Thank you.” As children we were forced to say them to adults, to pacify them. Moreover, we’ve all noticed that “Thank you” often is spoken at the end of a conversation, so if we say these words to someone even though we’re not enjoying the content of the interaction, we’ve learned that people often respond in a conditioned way by smiling and going away.

“I see what you’re saying.”
Imagine a conversation where the other person is saying something you disagree with or dislike. You could argue, but either you’re too tired or you sense that the other person would simply become more aggressive. In order to get the other person do go away, you say that you see what they’re saying, because you know that they want to hear that.

What you really mean—often—is, “You’re a complete idiot, but I can’t tell you that. I lack the courage, and I don’t want the argument. So I’ll say that I SEE what you’re saying, when I mean ‘see’ only in the sense that I ‘see’ the trash in the garbage can. Now will you stop talking?”

Yes, but
The “yes” is meant to communicate a false sense of agreement and pleasantry, but the “but” negates everything that precedes it. It’s a semi-polite way of telling somebody that you’re only pretending to listen.

I love you too
I say something that you take as insulting, whether it was meant to be or not. In your condition of victimhood, you say, “I love you too.” This is always spoken with considerable sarcasm and is intended as an attack. It is yet another way of spelling “Drop dead.”

In Conclusion
We tend to dismiss people who believe other than we do, or people who behave in ways inconvenient to us. In order to avoid looking socially unacceptable, we have come up with other ways—other than “drop dead”—to express our dismissal or outright disgust.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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