A few years ago, I noticed a new usage of the adverb "here." It annoyed me in the way some of these new usages do: It seemed lazy.
I can illustrate it by quoting a blog I visited recently. Mike "Mish" Shedlock writes about the economy and wrote this on Dec. 12, 2007, in a posting titled "A Question of Trust Between Banks":
"Maybe the realization that the Fed has no magic wand is what has everyone surprised here."
What is "here" doing there? How does it belong? It’s jarring, and it seems to end the sentence with a curious reader asking "where?"
"Oh," he thinks to himself, "there, where Mike is … at the other end … of the Internet … wherever…"
Well, not exactly. Because this "here" is meant to imply "about this topic," and therein hangs the tail.
"Here" is defined in my Webster’s as "in this place" or "in the place where the speaker is," and secondarily it means "as opposed to there," presumably where the reader, or listener, is.
The word "here" has the power to distinguish place and puts you or takes you somewhere. The trouble is that it’s being used as a place-marker — and, in my opinion, it has no place exactly, but the users would like you to think that it did have a place: They’re generally radio talk-show hosts or bloggers. Crafty lot, that crowd.
In baseball, pitchers throw a pitch that is a slow-moving curveball; it is said to "hang" over the plate like ripe fruit — available to the batter to hit wherever and however far he likes. The hanging "here" is like that: the end of a long sentence that sets it up, and it just hangs there. The listener can do anything with it.
Fox News personality Sean Hannity is the king of the hanging "here." He uses it when he’s tired of the sentence he’s saying, wants to end it, and can’t comfortably end it without leaving a "thud" on the radio. So he ends the sentence by saying "here" instead.
"Between Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton," he said yesterday, "there’s some real animosity here." Keeping track during a half hour of Hannity’s program the other day, I counted seven hanging "heres."
But Mr. Hannity’s not the inventor — he inherited it from Rush Limbaugh, who might have invented it, or might have adopted it from another. (A half-hour of his show the same day had four hanging "heres.")
In radio, there’s really no "there" for the listener. Well, you might listen on the Internet, or an hour of the radio show might be televised on local TV or on MSNBC, but I never listen that way, and the video audience can’t be big enough to be given a hanging "here" meaning … there.
The "here" conveys the intimacy of "in there," meaning in their cave, their belief system, in their party, in their brotherhood, where it’s safe, and you feel accepted and not challenged, and comfortable, not troubled.
The Internet is another category that desperately tries to convey a sense of place: Its Web sites try to support the illusion that it’s a Web of interconnected places or coordinates, when in reality it is nowhere, and at the same time, it’s everywhere. Perhaps it’s neither here nor there.
The other meaning of the hanging "here" is whatever you have said applies "here" or on this issue — the issue you’ve just spent 15 minutes or more defining, that complicated mess, a rant really, and it’s now the antecedent of the one syllable… "here." But the little adverb is asked to stand for too much. Like the trainee sentry asked to guard Fort Knox — too big a job!
So now that I’ve alerted you, listen for the hanging "here," and think about it when you hear it. If you’re like me, your stomach will clench, you’ll wish the speaker or writer had worked harder to end their sentence before the here, or substituted more specific language to clarify it. And you’ll wish that they didn’t have to struggle so to occupy a location in God’s universe.
James M. Edwards lives in Squirrel Hill.
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First published on January 30, 2008 at 12:00 am