January 28, 2008

#01-067: Verbal Shrugs

an emoji resembling a shrugging person, made up mainly of punctuation marks (and one Japanese character)
A graphic shrug

Note: A shrug is an eloquent gesture. Strictly speaking, it involves raising the shoulders up close to the ears. One dictionary says it indicates "doubt, disdain, or indifference."

Get Ready: Do you ever shrug? What do you mean by it?

When I see a shrug, I see emotions beyond doubt and disdain, but closely related to indifference. It's resignation. I don't mean "the quitting of a job" (to resign), but "to be resigned" to a situation, accepting that "what will be, will be." In addition to raising your shoulders:

  • turn your hands up, about shoulder height, with your arms slightly extended;
  • raise your eyes to heaven;
  • and wear a hopeless sort of "why me?" look

and you're starting to express resignation.

So what words might accompany (or substitute for) such a gesture when you're using it to express resignation? In other words, how can you shrug verbally?

Well, that same "Why me?" Or even "Why me, Lord?" is a good start. But even that is a little too involved, a little too negative, for the emotion I'm thinking of.

Here are some better candidates:

  • "Oh, well."
  • "What can I say?"
  • "What can ya do?" or "What are ya gonna do?"
  • "That's life!"
  • "That's the way it goes."

And the list goes on and on.

Let's look at some examples of when these might be used.

  • You're racing for a subway train just as it's about to leave--but you don't make it. The doors close in your face, and everyone on the platform and in that train car is watching. To indicate your acceptance of the situation, this would be a good time to say, "Oh, well," and shrug.
  • You promised your friend you'd meet him for lunch. For the tenth time, you had to cancel. It wasn't your fault; your boss made you work through lunchtime again. When your friend scolds you, you know he's right, and that you have no real defense. But you don't really feel guilty either. So you shrug and say, "What can I say? I'm sorry, OK?"
  • Your friend is complaining about her boss. She has a good job with good pay in a good company. But her boss is a workaholic, and expects the staff to be the same. As she complains, you sympathize, and shrug and say, "But what are ya gonna do? You can't quit such a great job. I guess you'll just have to put up with it."
  • Another friend is a chronic complainer. Yada yada yada: all he does is moan about how terrible his life is. You're tired of sympathizing, so finally you just shrug and say, "Hey, that's life, OK? Just deal with it and move on."
  • Finally, yet another friend has long been hoping to win the lottery. She calls you up very blue, saying that she missed winning by just one number. Knowing that losing the lottery is much more common than winning, you shrug and say, "Well, that's the way it goes. Most tickets lose, you know."

Are you starting to get the picture? Try these "verbal shrugs" next time you or a friend have been let down by life.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrug

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. acceptance
  2. chronic
  3. disdain
  4. eloquent
  5. gesture
  6. lottery
  7. scolds
  8. sympathize
  9. workaholic
  10. yada yada yada

  1. constant; habitual
  2. a game of chance based on numbered tickets; "lucky draw"
  3. a feeling of contempt or scorn
  4. reprimands; finds fault with
  5. agree with someone's feelings about something
  6. a person who works an unhealthy amount
  7. the use of head and or hands for expression (see Lesson #01-031)
  8. agreeing to something even though one doesn't like it
  9. means someone just keeps talking, like "blah blah blah"
  10. movingly expressive

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for January 28, 2008

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. h; 2. a; 3. c; 4. j; 5. g; 6. b; 7. d; 8. e; 9. f; 10. i