“I'm sort of appalled by my mother.” “I'm kind of obsessed with these cookies.” “I'm a little freaked out by drone strikes.”
What, exactly, is the deal here? We're all suddenly unable to say clearly what we're feeling? Everything has to be qualified ever so slightly? We're appalled--but we're just sort of appalled. We're not willing to commit to it. It's like an epidemic of cultural coyness.
My sense is that this is at least partly a Puritan relic: a simultaneous fascination with and fear of heightened emotion. We attach these qualifiers only to the most extreme conditions—appalled, obsessed, addicted. (We wouldn't say “That restaurant was kind of decent” or “I'm sort of pleased with my car.") We want to feel the romance of being appalled, obsessed, etc.—but we al... Read More