As the boundaries between facts and fiction have blurred over recent years, figuring out what’s accurate has become more essential than ever. Couple this with the eggshells most of us walk on when daring to express our opinion of what’s accurate in this highly charged atmosphere of naysayers to yeasayers, and we’re left with a perfect storm: An ever-growing number of talking heads seeking an unspoken confirmation of their opinions as they move to the right. As in “Right?”
This newest lazy language habit is popping up as reliably as the kernels in my microwave, following the occasional pop at first, much like my early-stage popcorn. Even when following kernels of truth, the rhetorical questioners are probably more comfortable when the recipients of their “Right?” concur with their truth before the interlocutors tick off the rest of their talking points and soon approach the next “Right?” Right?
Note to self: Shark Tank new GPS app pitch – Gab Positioning System. Enter starting argument, enter destination. And my GPS will tell you where to slow down to make a “Right?” every step of the way!
It’s often asked among like-minded hosts and guests on networks where they know the rhetorical question won’t be disputed or negated. Right? Not that these statements are worth arguing about.
They were clearly classified documents, right?
It’s a no-no to inflate for bank lenders and insurance purposes, and deflate for tax reports, right?
Even those not in the entertainment industry, right, are sensing labor inflection points in their own industries, right?
Artists may have been justly protesting for rights, but the above “rights” came freely without triggering a protest from anyone except, perhaps, me… right?
The perpetrators of “Right?” may not expect an answer nor anticipate their comments being interrupted. But what if those on the receiving end of these conversational hiccups jumped in to disagree for ridiculous argument’s sake? They might just do us all a favor by shocking the offenders into halting the hiccups.
He was clearly speaking to his base, right? They clearly heard the dog whistles, right? And…
Only dogs can hear ultrasonic tones.
I’m sorry. Were you… answering my rhetorical question that wasn’t meant to be answered?
Well, I obviously didn’t literally mean “dog whistles,” right?
It was obviously a figure of speech and…
It wasn’t obviously a figure of speech?
No, it was. The two wrongs shocked you into not making another right. My work is done here.
If the tacit need to be in sync with others had been so glaring in eras past, would FDR have proclaimed, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, right?” No. “The only thing we have to fear is being in lockstep with others for fear of being rebuked, itself!” Maybe.
Perhaps this frequent seeking of others’ approval is an offshoot of the validation trophies handed out during their formative years for just showing up, right? Maybe not. You can’t blame me for asking.
“Right?” is probably the prelude to its recipient’s reflexive thought, “Tell me something I don’t know,” meaning, again, they already know and agree with what the questioner is posing. Let’s fantasize that it could also be the recipient’s occasional subconscious wish to be told something they don’t know for a change, another point of view they haven’t yet entertained. In our own political and cultural bubbles, if there was more interaction with the other side’s arguments we don’t happen to agree with, maybe we could arrive at a happy middle?
Maybe politicians could learn from the inalienable “rights” of these talking heads and begin sprinkling an earnest and non-rhetorical “Right?” into their own one-sided talking points, to which the opposition could respectfully counter, “Wrong… Right?” Which could at least get the two sides to engage and explore compromises towards the goal of agreeing with them enough to eventually render “Right?” a question not worth asking.
Are you listening ’24 hopefuls? Yeah… right.
Andy Cowan is the creator and host of the comedy/therapy podcast, The Neurotic Vaccine, a 2023 Quill Podcast Award final nominee for Best New Podcast and Best Comedy Podcast, and author of Banging My Head Against the Wall: A Comedy Writer’s Guide to Seeing Stars, with foreword by Jay Leno, acquired in 2019 by The National Comedy Center in Jamestown, New York. A 2017 Who’s Who in America Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, he was a writer and program consultant on Seinfeld.
Learn more at andycowan.net