Yes, You Can Wait

(oh, how I wish I could put the can’ from the title in italics for emphasis. Such are the problems of the first-world blogger) 

The phrase ‘I can’t wait’ is one of the worst things to have been invented by humans, a species responsible for all manner of monstrosities from Nero’s treason trials to the idiocy that was Championship Manager post-2007.

Fundamentally, the phrase is much too broad for what it is commonly used for; suggesting that you are unable to contain your excitement is quite a sweeping statement about your patience, a statement that possesses a great deal of characterising power that is lost if the phrase is over-used. It’s like swearing – use it too much and its power wanes.

People’s specific use of the phrase contradicts with this broad assertion of one’s character; you’ll say ‘I can’t wait’ for a certain game to be released or party to begin, suggesting that you have the ability to control your patience and desires in relation to particular events in your life, which is frankly unreasonable: our excitements range from the subdued to the excessive, and I’ve not encountered anyone who can micro-manage these feelings.

Furthermore, I’d argue you can’t manage these feelings; by their definition, feelings are inherent and emotional responses to stimulus; we can change the stimulus to try and influence these feelings, but ten times out of ten, the more emotionally-driven people will break down in tears when a minor character from Battlestar Galactica is killed off, whereas others won’t.

The phrase is also deeply flawed in that it divides practical actions and imagined ones: we think we will act in a certain way, that of not waiting, but we actually act very differently. Obviously, we don’t really have a choice here – we say we can’t wait for things, but then have to wait because the action for which we are waiting hasn’t happened yet, and we have no way to make it happen any sooner.

However, surely the fact that this phrase, one of total incorrectness and unchangeability, has become so popular within the English language, to the extent that someone who actively avoids using the phrase is surrounded by it enough to feel compelled to write about it on the Internet, just displays the inherent idealism of humanity? This idealism can often be a good thing, as it drives us to discover new things previously thought impossible and improve the world despite practical improbability, but these forms of idealism are made in the right hands; in the wrong hands, the human desire to project a time-warping, emotion-controlling ideal of human power onto the world leads to nonsensical phrases like this.

In short, anyone who uses the phrase ‘I can’t wait’ should be impaled on a harpoon consisting of nothing but the vast painfulness of their own misunderstanding of the concept of time. So please don’t do it, for I can make a harpoon.

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8 thoughts on “Yes, You Can Wait

    1. Two-year-olds can’t really be expected to grapple with such linguistic problems.

      I would also be okay with someone using the phrase whilst babysitting in general – I can imagine babysitting being stressful at best

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