Breaking My Silence
I’m finally going to break my silence about something that has bothered me for years.
Hold on. Let me back up so this makes sense.
English majors. Writers. Grammarians.
No one knows how we suffer as we navigate the written world.
We cringe when we encounter word echoes, for instance. We seethe when people turn nouns into verbs. (“Gifted” “and “tasked” come to mind.) We want to stab ourselves in the eyes when we spy errant apostrophes or encounter someone who foolishly uses the term “hoi polloi” as the Three Stooges once did, to describe society's upper crust.
My biggest pet peeve - one I’ve never spoken of before - is the overused term “broke his silence” or “broke her silence” when what the writer really means is that someone took a breath before reacting to something that happened recently. The person in question is usually a celebrity.
You see, in a world of hot takes, keeping your big mouth shut or thinking before you speak is so rare that it is considered remarkable.
For instance, the day before last month’s royal wedding, a British paper (I can't remember which, they were all obsessed with just one topic) ran a front-page headline something like this: “Meghan Markle Breaks Her Silence On The Drama Surrounding Her Family.”
Geez. If memory serves, the “drama” concerned her father’s missteps. That little dust-up unfolded just days before the nuptials.
Not sure the future duchess "broke her silence" as much as sat down with palace PR types and figured out what to politely say about Daddy Markle’s absence at the wedding.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, on June 5th, designer Kate Spade committed suicide. One day later, People ran a story that began, "Kate Spade‘s husband is breaking his silence one day after his wife of 24 years and Kate Spade New York co-founder died of suicide at age 55."
Seriously? He broke his silence? Or was he simply pulling himself together and making funeral arrangements before chatting with the press?
Same thing happened last month after Roseanne Barr let loose with a racist Tweet that got her sacked from her television show.
Barr’s offensive Tweet was sent on May 29th. On May 30th, according to ABC News, John Goodman “broke his silence” on his co-star. Actually, when asked about Roseanne, he demurred, saying "I would rather say nothing than to cause more trouble."
Apparently saying nothing amounts to "breaking his silence."
Is it asking too much that the term be used to actually mean something? Because there are times when folks actually do wait years or even decades to speak about delicate events.
Take Jean Miller, for example. It took her 60 years - until author J.D. Salinger died in 2010 - to speak of her brief love affair with him when she was a teenager.
When asked why she waited so long, she told an interviewer that she knew “Jerry” didn’t want his private life discussed while he was alive. And she respected that.
In a world of hot takes and tell-alls, that was refreshing.