Want me to lose your audience's attention immediately? Then drop the u-bomb.
"Let's unpack this."
This is, like, literally, the most annoying word/phrase in the English language.
It is way worse than vagina, even though I once wrote an entire blog post about why I hate the word vagina -- and believe me, it's a terrible, terrible word.
In Latin, the word "vagina" literally means sheath or scabbard.
It's so bad, it's almost as bad as telling someone they "look tired." Which, as I wrote recently in Unless the Next Words Out of Your Mouth Are Going to Be, "Can I Help ___?" Do NOT Tell Me I "Look Tired," is an extremely rude and stupid thing to say to someone.
And it's definitely worse than the word "moist," which is infamous for having... weird connotations? Few words in English elicit such strong aversions in so many people.
Though, personally, I have no problem with moist. At all. It reminds me of delicious cookies and cakes.
Like, what? Do you want them not to be moist?
Do you like your cakes and cookies to be hard and dry?
Then you're a weirdo.
So what, exactly, is the problem with "unpack"? Why does it make so many people cringe?
Even though two of the last five books I've read (James Pennebaker's The Secret Life of Pronouns and Benjamin Bergen's What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves) were about words... I don't entirely know.
What about this stupid use of the word "unpack" evokes pure, unbridled rage?
It could just be associations. Many reasonable people have come to associate "unpack" with insane, regressive social justice warriors, who use the phrase, "Let's unpack this" to explain things like why all men are basically rapists (even if they're not) or why objectivity is oppressive (who cares about expertise, when some 17-year-old has "lived experience") or that there is such a thing as "sexual prejudice" (there isn't -- there is only sexual preference).
Maybe it's because people who use the word "unpack" often use lots of other meaningless jargon, and you can't even argue with them because they're not presenting ideas and content, just long strings of trendy social justice words.
Maybe it's about arrogance. Maybe people who tend to say "unpack" say it because they believe they are so much more enlightened, intelligent, or whatever than you, that they need to "unpack" your own opinions and beliefs for you.
Often, people who want to "unpack" things for you have no respect for your personal choices or autonomy. For example, consider Everyday Feminism's recent post, So You Got Called Out On Social Media By Someone Who's More Marginalized Than You. In it, Jacquie Fuller discusses how, if other people have less oppression than you, your job is to shut up and apologize and agree.
You feel it rising up inside you: The But-But-But.
The diatribe continues (after telling us what TV show to watch -- because "self-care," right? -- and what kind of tea to drink and how to decorate our house and to masturbate):
Call an intersectional white feminist friend who will help you unpack what you’re feeling (I’m here for you!).
"Unpaid emotional labor." That's a funny one. I'll have to save that for later.
In short, people hate the word "unpack" because they associate it with SJWs trying to force their opinions in place of facts.
Which, actually, makes total sense.
See, in one of my psycholinguistics classes, I learned that people say pretty much exactly what they mean, and follow a basic set of rules, or maxims (Grice's Maxims, to be specific) in their communication.
We are as informative as we possibly can, and give as much information as is needed, and no more.
We try to be truthful, and do not give information that is false or that is not supported by evidence.
We try to be as clear, as brief, and as orderly as we can in what we say, and we avoid obscurity and ambiguity.
Calling "unpacking" anything but unpacking would violate these maxims.
You can't say, "Let's discuss this," because you're not looking for a discussion.
You can't say, "Let's analyze this," because you don't want to analyze it -- you want to justify and over-justify your opinion.
You can't say, "Let's have a rational back-and-forth," because it's not rational -- it's emotional. And it's not a back-and-forth, either.
And saying, "Sit back and shut up and listen and agree while I talk about my opinion like it's a fact and 'call you out' if you disagree with me," is so darn wordy -- "unpack" conveys the exact same message in only two syllables.
Which is why, typically, when someone wants to unpack anything that's not a suitcase, I feel instinctively wary. I've learned, from my lived experience, that there's no point in trying to engage.
That's not what "unpacking" is about.
6/5/2017 01:12:41 am
I have seen far too many articles, often from writers who were once committed skeptics, on what to do if you're called out that will not address the possibility that you're critic might be wrong. Marginalised people's perceptions must be accepted without question but you cannot know your own, thoughts or motivations.
6/6/2017 07:49:29 am
+1000 to this comment. Women are not a privileged class anywhere in the world, but the SJW police would have you believe that it's a sin for any white woman to have an opinion on anything ever. They should be reminded that being white has never prevented women from being assaulted, paid less, raped, pressured to adhere to beauty standards, cat-called, denied an abortion, or anything else you can think of. It's the same with "cis," a meaningless word that tries to paint women as the oppressors of trans people. If being a "cis" white woman is all it takes to free yourself of male violence and oppression, then why do "cis" white women continue to face the same problems that all women face? The fact that women in many countries face ADDITIONAL threats (FGM, for one) does not negate the common burdens all women share by virtue of their biology.
6/5/2017 06:05:35 am
6/5/2017 12:44:11 pm
LOL... you've done it again. I HATE "unpacking". "Emotional labor" is also becoming a popular SJW/Tumblrina phrase.
3/22/2019 08:10:28 am
I only started to notice this annoying trend about a few months ago for some reason. probably first game upon it when listening to some podcast hosted by leftist pseudo intellectual types. Now it's gotten to the point where even respected rabbis I listen to like rabbi tovia singer are saying it while explaining Judaism. It's really annoying and I'm glad someone pointed it out you're the top result on Google perhaps we should unpack that.
9/20/2021 05:26:30 pm
Forthwith I shall refer to the female reproductive conduut as something along the lines of the feminine liquid waste elimination portal. Or maybe the female reproductive conduit.
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