Why But?

English has a type of word called  a coordinating conjunction. Coordinating conjunctions go between two parts of a sentence, and they imply that the two parts are more or less equivalent, at least grammatically. You know coordinating conjunctions as “and” and “but.”

“But” is interesting because it connects the two things and implies some kind of opposition between the two things. For example,

I am sick, but I don’t think I’m contagious.

We think of contagiousness as going with sickness, so the sentence uses “but” to contradict this usual circumstance.

If I may digress a bit, I attended a sales class once in which the instructor said to avoid using but, because it’s negative.

It’s a fine encyclopedia, but it’s inexpensive.

should be

It’s a fine encyclopedia, and it’s inexpensive.

Hmm. Try getting rid of some buts and see how it feels. (It feels funny, but/and interesting.)

And that leads to my intended object lesson for this post, compliments of Curtis, which hinges on the kid ignoring the implied contradiction between corniness and the feeling of love in his dad’s statement, which definitely needs the but.

The lesson: Pay attention to your buts.