I am a lover of language, nuance and expressiveness. While there are certainly terms of this generation that I have no truck with (Oh, it’s like dat huh?” comes to mind); there is one I that I have become quite fond of: the sarcastic and facetious use of the word “Really”.

Since childhood I have referred to the dictionary as “The Big Book”. Maybe I couldn’t pronounce “Dictionary” as a child, but I also like to think that this title empowers the book somehow, like the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone. I have always enjoyed arguing and take an especially smug and obnoxious glee in being correct in a debate. “Oh yeah, ma? Well, let’s just see what The Big Book has to say, shall we?” One of my more nit-picky tactics is to rubbish someone in an argument when my definition is ranked higher numerically than the person’s I am engaged in a debate with.

“It’s right there.” says my unfortunate opponent pointing to the disputed definition.
“Yeah” I retort “It’s number two, mine is number one!”
“So?” they ask when really they should know better.
“If number two mattered more than number one Al Gore or MItt Romney would have been president.”

Now here is where my obnoxiousness differs from your garden variety pest or annoyance. For up to the next 72 hours I will shove this in their nose in the most creative manner I can find.

“Hey, um when a little kid has to go to the bathroom and they say ‘number two’, what does that mean exactly?”

For weeks after a debate with my mom I would leave copies of the Big Book everywhere, open to the page of the disputed word. My mom started hiding her highlighters.

But I digress…

According to the Big Book “Really” means:

Definition of REALLY
a : in reality : actually <things as they really are> <there was nothing peculiar about her doing this, really — Peter Taylor>
b : truly, unquestionably —used as an intensifier
c : very 2
—used to emphasize an assertion <really, you’re being ridiculous>

Examples of REALLY
1. The dog runs really fast.
2. The water is really hot.
3. She’s a really nice person

I remember this was an important word as a child. First because little kids have next to no decision making power. It’s a delicate and precarious life resting on the whims of parental units and other grownups. So we need a lot of confirmation:

“I thought we might have dinner at McDonalds tonight.”
“Nah, let’s try the kelp and tofu quiche recipe from that hippy cookbook you love so much.”

My mom had her tiny torments too.

“Really” was also used as filler when we were assigned essays and reports of X number of words. Remember counting and re-counting the words as a kid? 500 words seemed exceptionally unreasonable when I could just as easily say “It sucked”. So, we filled our book reports with as many “Really’s” and “Very’s” as possible and hoped that the teacher didn’t notice. Ever the rebel, I made a point of handing in essays with 498 words. (Sticking it to the man since 3rd grade.)

“Tom Sawyer was a really, really, really, good book. It takes place a very very long time ago. It’s about a boy named Tom Sawyer who is really, really ,very, very smart…”

See? I stretched 23 words to 32.

The contemporary definition and use of “Really” is among my favorite terms today. This definition hasn’t made it in “The Big Book” yet, so I had to visit a favorite website; Urban Dictionary.


1. An exclamation used when you can’t believe that someone has said, asked or done something so stupid, or unbelievably stupid. Often said very sarcastically.

2. A brief way to question the integrity of a person or an act. Implies, “I am so unimpressed with this, and disappointed in you for doing such a thing.”

That’s perfect. This fits my repertoire of constant disappointment and disbelief in the world and most of its residents. A fair estimate would be that I say or think “Really” approximately 3000 times daily…perhaps 4000 if I am running late, doing errands or using public transportation. Since it is my S.O.P to take things too far, I am frankly amazed that I haven’t taken to staring at various offending parties with my patented annoyed face and asking aloud “Really?”

Another facet of “Really” is that it requires a specific tone and a unique facial expression. How many words can claim this honor?

My ex-girlfriend when I was naked except for socks and glasses. “Really?”

I have been going to the same Dunkin Donuts for over 10 years, with the same coffee order, from the same woman…to this day; she repeats my order back to me, getting every aspect of my coffee wrong.

Me: (Said slowly in the hopes that today will be the day where she finally gets it right)
“I’d like…a small coffee,… with a little milk….. make it dark,…. and two Splenda, please.” I cringe and brace for impact.

Dunkin Donuts employee with the lazy eye and severe coffee dyslexia:
“Large coffee, with cream and three sugars?”

Really? REALLY?

A mother of 8 at the laundromat decides that the folding table for everyone’s clean clothes is the perfect place to change her baby’s rancid and over stuffed diaper, when there is a bathroom 5 feet behind her.


At the grocery store, after all her items have been scanned, the woman who has been on her cell phone suddenly realizes they will have to be paid for and spends approximately 40 minutes digging pennies and nickels from the change purse that took her 10 minutes to find.


A public toilet seat covered in urine with its contents unflushed.


Maybe we live in a “Really?” kind of world. People post excruciating minutia on Facebook and get butthurt (another most excellent contemporary expression) when all 306 people they are “friends” with don’t comment, like or otherwise stroke them. Not me, of course, I have a strict rule of posting 40 times or less the daily antics of my cats.

“Really” comes from “Real” as does “Reality”. Reality TV may be the most popular entertainment medium in the world today. Yet, the many of the successful reality TV shows generally have lots and lots of “Really?” moments.

Honey Boo Boo.


Her disgusting family.


On The Learning Channel.


3 million viewers.


  1. Dazy says:

    Oh yeah…Really…

  2. […] This gave me pause. My first impulse was to post something to the effect of “really?…REALLY?” But I quickly realized I would be outnumbered and would just redouble the anger in the […]


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