Thought Catalog

I Can’t With “I Can’t Even” Anymore

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For whatever reason, people these days just can’t. In fact, they just can’t so much that after a while they can’t even. This may continue to a point of culmination when they finally can’t even deal. Like, literally, they can’t. It’s gotten so bad that I’m to the point now where I also can’t. I mean, I literally can’t even deal.

And with so many unfortunate souls out there who can’t, we must ask the question: are there any of us out there who can?

The “I can’t” and “can’t even” vernacular has turned into something of a phenomenon. If you said one of these phrases around most 18-25 year old girls, it would actually be accepted. It took center stage recently when Kacey Musgraves won a Grammy and repeatedly couldn’t even. While it makes zero sense and indicates maybe a complete sentence was just too tough to process, we’ve actually welcomed it as a colloquial phrase.

Step back for a second and think about that. We have succumbed to the idea that these phrases indicate complete thoughts. And that is something with which I cannot deal.

Let’s face it, words are hard. Try as we might, we don’t always reek of eloquence. We get vomit of the mouth, foot-in-mouth, and our brains just work faster than our mouths. We’ve been on a crash course for a while, and now I think we’ve hit rock bottom. We’ve finally reached the point where we don’t even feel the need to complete our thoughts, we get halfway through and feel like we still communicated something. I mean, if you heard someone say, as you probably often do, “I can’t” or “I just can’t” and leave it at that, what would you guess was their reading level? Would you assume you could have an engaging conversation with them? Would you expect them to be insightful or the least bit interesting? At the risk of making a sweeping generalization, you’d be more expectant of a fairly privileged girl obsessed with her own vapidity.

When you see someone tweet or hear them say “I can’t even” or something of the like, there are a few appropriate canned responses:

“Can’t even what? Complete a thought?”


“Can’t remember multi-syllabic words?”


“Can’t command your native language?”

They seem harsh but are applicable. You see, it isn’t that people who utter these phrases are imbecilic. In fact, they don’t seem ignorant at all, but instead suffer from elocutive laziness. I’m reminded of the Taylor Mali poem “Totally like whatever, you know?”, which begins, “In case you hadn’t noticed / it has somehow become uncool / to sound like you know what you’re talking about?” Mali, an award winning slam poet, rails against inarticulateness with the simple point that we should want to speak with conviction. We should want to sound like we know what we’re talking about. We should, to paraphrase Mali, say what we believe in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which we believe it.

To not attempt articulation, let alone completing sentences, is to make a mockery of ourselves — to make a mockery of our own education and our own minds. You may think that is hyperbolic but you can’t underscore the importance of effective communication. Nobody’s saying you need to drop everything to develop a vocabulary rivaling David Foster Wallace, but can we at least complete our own sentences? Can we at least speak with enough declaration that our thoughts are complete and not just recurring fragments? Or do we have to trudge on through conversations rife with parenthetical interrogatives?

So if you find yourself in a troubling position where you can’t even, I implore you to slow down and speak with enough declaration so that your thoughts are complete and not just recurring fragments. Our thought patterns should look more like flow charts and less like a dot plot, lacking any sort of connection. It sounds exaggerated, but we really do have a moral imperative to communicate well. If we respect ourselves and the people we speak with, we should strive to speak in a way that shows we actually value that communication. If someone lends an ear, don’t punish them. If we can get a handle on this idea, I look forward to the day in the not so distant future when we even can. TC mark

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    • http://mickybnovels.wordpress.com mickybnovels

      I don’t even think it has anything to do with being too busy to complete the sentance. I genuinely believe that people who use it are not good communicators.

      Like they expect you to fill in the blanks.

      • ceruleanstarshine

        I don’t think they like what I fill in the blanks with. I cannot stand it when people say “I can’t”. My husband and I have turned it into an inside joke–“I just can’t EVEN!”…ridiculous. It’s bad enough seeing it written on the internet (except in this case, the post is great) but if I heard it out loud? Automatically dropped from the friends list. Ugh!

        • http://mickybnovels.wordpress.com mickybnovels

          Too true lol

    • http://baffledwoman.wordpress.com allisongivens

      Well written! And I couldn’t agree more!!

    • http://jahangirieh.wordpress.com jahangirieh

      سلام

    • http://sicilyselfies.wordpress.com Francesca Maria

      People are too busy checking their email, sms, messages, FB, etc. so they’re forgetting how to speak:)

      • http://marjorielalicanblog.wordpress.com marjorielalican2013

        indeed

    • http://ngruber2014.wordpress.com ngruber2014

      “i think about it”

    • BassieGrey

      Thank you for this. I know it may seem like just a bit of fun to some but it’s also an indication of a lack of vocabulary

    • http://forgetanxiety.wordpress.com anxiouslady2014

      I don’t think this is fair. “I can’t even” is just a saying that has been picked up by young adults in the same way that full sentence sayings are picked up. No it doesn’t make them sound intelligent but give people a break. I have such a hard time with vocabulary and words in general expressing myself with words Sometimes it is so hard, and so frustrating it really makes me feel like I’m an idiot, that everyone thinks I’m an idiot and that I should just lock myself at home forever. So yes Sometimes I saying things like “I can’t even” but stop judging me right now, because I graduated my undergrad with high honour in chemistry, and am about to graduate with a master’s in chemistry in a few months. Not everyone’s great at words… You are and your writing is great! And that is awesome! But everyone has their thing. How many times have you made DNA from scratch? Yeah that’s what I thought….

    • http://nikkicsoban.wordpress.com Nicole Emily

      Sadly we live in a world where most people think they now only have 140 characters to say anything at all.

      • http://veronicafragassi.wordpress.com vfragassi

        Actually overheard some people in a lift discussing their level of skill at learning to condense their thoughts into just 140 characters.

    • http://absolutelylucy.wordpress.com lruthnum

      Perhaps also a reflection of how disposable everything in our society has become – whether physical objects, food, people, relationships and now words.. We have so much handed to us on a plate that we no longer understand the value of real thought and structured conversation, particularly when everything is so instant – Facebook, Twitter and all other social media is so fast that we don’t think before we act.

    • nikkiharvey

      Most people, yes, they should try and use full sentences. And definitely when writing, everyone should use full sentences. But I struggle with words. Sometimes my mind goes completely blank on a word and I have to use hand gestures instead. Especially when I’m tired I struggle to communicate and have to resort to drawing pictures. And it’s part of an illness. Communication is very difficult for me and others like me. So don’t judge before you know the full story.

    • http://draelizabethoropeza.wordpress.com draelizabethoropeza

      Reblogged this on draelizabethoropeza.

    • jessamybaudains

      totally agree! xx

    • http://bensbitterblog.wordpress.com bensbitterblog

      This makes so much sense. I’m not so eloquent in a manner of speaking, but when I comes to writing, I do need to challenge my vocabulary a little more. So thanks for this nice reminder.

    • http://aroundyourscreen.wordpress.com aroundyourscreen

      Reblogged this on Around Your Screen.

    • http://rawshesaid.wordpress.com Quinn

      Spot on, perfect, thank you!

    • http://9japaradies.wordpress.com 9japaradies

      Reblogged this on CIVIL BOYS HOME.

    • http://9japaradies.wordpress.com 9japaradies

      Hmkm

    • Anonymous Amy

      Reblogged this on Relations 101 and commented:

    • http://lethergooo.wordpress.com carolinavga

      Reblogged this on let her go >>.

    • http://dharmainstitute dharmainitiative

      I was almost in tears of laughing. I can’t even.

      • qunzhen123

        do my best

    • http://ktrockcassidy.wordpress.com ktrockcassidy

      Love this. Mind you, with the dribble I’ve heard out of complete sentences, sometimes it’s better to leave it at “I can’t even”.

    • http://lintonslegacy.wordpress.com Linton's Legacy

      I am pleased to see a post about something which has been top peeve of mine. It rankles me when I see it in novels and in particular non-fiction. ‘Can’t even’ is fine if it is uttered from the mouth of a protagonist from a particular demographic but otherwise it repels me to the extent I put the book down and it gathers dust on the shelf.

    • http://solblogs.wordpress.com solblogs

      Totally agree! :)

    • http://liplined.wordpress.com ilab1998

      feeling the same way!!!

    • http://kuhleecreative.wordpress.com ksthompsonauthor

      It saddens me to admit I used to be teased and thus “dumbed down” my vocabulary in order to fit in.

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