Some of you blinked a little bit when you saw the title of this post. Some of you have such strong feelings about the phrase “shut up” that it almost causes a physical reaction deep within the recesses of whatever place in you has deep recesses.
“We don’t say shut up in this house.” “I don’t like that word (or phrase, depending on whether it’s spelled with a space between “shut” and “up” or as a single word).” I’ve heard all this and more, in protest of shut up.
This is going to make me sound like a bad person, or possibly a bad teacher (and many teachers are in fact persons). But I’ve used the S/U word in class before. Whenever I have, the reaction is always the same – shock and disbelief that I said it, along with overdramatic expressions of hurt feelings.
“We don’t think you should say that, Mr. Miller. We think it’s disrespectful.” Of course, other facts are left out of the “disrespectful” discussion, like how we arrived at the S/U point in the first place… the times I did the “shhh” thing, the times I said “please be quiet,” or “stop talking, please,” or “seriously, guys, I need you to please stop talking” – all those things I may have said, which all include the word “please,” are forgotten with a single use of the S/U word.
Oh, and none of those other attempts leading up to the S/U word worked. And the S/U word is the big gun, the thing you bring out when nothing else works.
There are various ways to use the S/U word. My preferred way is to say, “Hey guys, I love you, but you really need to shut up.” That gives the shock value of the S/U word, with the added bonus of love. Other times, you may have to say it like this, with a slightly raised voice: “Ok, you know what? I’ve asked several times and you’re not listening so here it is – you need to shut up.” This way, or some variation of it, contains no love so you have to be careful with it and don’t just go around doing it every day.
Maybe I should stop using the S/U word. Maybe I should be sensitive to those who say it’s rude and mean, and think about their feelings. But you see, I was kind of a deprived child when it came to the S/U word – my mom didn’t like it and she got pretty bent whenever we used it. Not that it necessarily stopped us of course, it just put a downer on the whole S/U experience.
So for those of you who are about to protest my use of the S/U word, I don’t want to be rude, so I’m going to have to ask you to please be quiet.
Shut up would have been quite a rare expression when I was a kid. One of my most vivid school memories is when our long suffering bus driver Lila finally yelled, “Now kids, SHUT UP!”
We said nary a word the whole way home. Very effective, still, shut up.
See, I’m telling you, in the ghetto them’s fighting words. And the proper response may be “homey don’t play that.”