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honest_2000_685x385Recently I made an impulsive stop at a Pizza Hut carryout. After ordering a P’Zone, I asked the man behind the counter (his nametag read “Darwin”) if he had any favorite menu items.

And boy, Darwin had plenty…

In fact, I think Pizza Hut owes him a hefty bonus for all those endorsements. He mentioned the pizza, touted the breadsticks, raved about the pastas, drooled over the desserts, and enlightened me about items that don’t even show up on the menu (like que’papas, which happen to be his favorite).

But when that conversation finally ended, I didn’t walk away thinking about his recommendations. Instead, I was preoccupied with the way he presented his opinions to me. You see, Darwin began almost every sentence with this phrase:

To be completely honest with ya…

(Except he said it like a Chicagoan, so it was more like “To be completely honest which-ya…” which, interestingly enough, rhymes with “Ditka.”)

A few times, Darwin varied his opener. Instead of “completely honest,” he would be “perfectly honest.” And once or twice, he changed things up completely, leading off with, “To tell you the truth…”

And to be completely honest with you, I was amused by this. For two reasons.

First of all, these prefaces (as well as “To be blunt…” and “To be frank…”) are common, but I still think it’s funny that so many of us (myself included) feel the need to assure our listener that what we’re about to say is the truth. In recent years, it’s also become trendy to start a sentence with, “I’m not gonna lie…”

And these openers are common, hardly noticeable (unless someone like Darwin employs them in every sentence). But imagine if Darwin had responded to my question, “What’s your favorite thing on the menu?” by saying:

“To be completely sarcastic with you, I’d say our Whopper. Or the Big Mac. Oh wait, this is Pizza Hut, isn’t it? Well then, it’s probably the pizza.”


“To be completely disinterested with you…eh, I don’t know.”

Or maybe:

“To be perfectly rude and unnecessarily confrontational…whadda-ya asking me for? What’s a matter, you can’t read the menu?”

As for the second reason I was intrigued by Darwin’s vow to be “completely honest”:

I once heard that whenever someone says “To tell you the truth” or “to be completely honest,” whatever follows probably isn’t honest or truthful.

In some cases, that might be true. But for the most part, I disagree. I think people often use these phrases to convey their sincerity.

Ultimately, I think those phrases are common because the desire for truth/honesty/frankness/bluntness is universal, so we all know our listeners want us to be truthful. And that’s why these phrases are used…and over-used by a certain someone (cough, Darwin, cough)…

Which is also why we’ll probably never hear anyone opening sentences with statements like:

“To be passive-aggressive with you…”
“To be perfectly supercilious…”
“To be completely curmudgeonly…”

Although all of those would be more fun, wouldn’t they?

Maybe I’ll start working those expressions into my daily vernacular. I’ll let you know how it goes…