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Top 4 warnings about the use of the word ‘just’ (It’s ‘just’ that easy)

I have done a great deal of reflection on the word ‘just’.  I am a fan of words and I have done a good deal of writing about specific words on my blog as the topic of posts.  ‘Just’ is a complex word.

To begin with, the ‘just’ can be used as an adjective, to describe a noun.  ‘Just’ came from Middle English in the mid 1,200’s meaning ‘law’ or ‘right’.  Historically speaking, in the middle of the Middle Ages, there was great conflict and power transition.  Therefore, ‘law’ and ‘right’ is socially important.  So, ‘just’ is used as an adjective describing the abstract noun ‘fairness’.  In this case, ‘just’ describes how much or the amount of fairness exists in a situation.  An example: The law should provide a ‘just’ experience with living with each other.

Following this, the other uses of ‘just’ are as adverbs, describing or amplifying an action.  You could say that something ‘just’ happened.  In this case ‘just’ the chronological proximity to another event in the reality of when another action took place.  ‘Just’ also means barely or a little describing what amount of an action something is.  Someone might use it to describe my spicy tomato sauce: “It’s ‘just’ a bit too hot for me; I bet you love it.”  They may use ‘just’ to create a passive or dismissive scenario such as when an ex-partner describes why we should break up:  “You are ‘just’ not as handsome as I need.”

Finally, the most offensive way I have been seeing is when ‘just’ is used as an adverb similar to ‘simply’.  What is so offensive about it being used as ‘simply’?  People from different perspectives and backgrounds use this urging you to understand something.  For instance: You ‘just’ need to listen. You ‘just’ need to complete ___.  You ‘just’ need to follow the example.  This use is dismissive and condescending.

I have to admit that I have used ‘just’ in this offensive way as a teacher.  For that, I apologize.  I am going to be more respectful of this and anticipate situations so that I will not be urged to use that adverb.  To ask someone who is struggling to ‘just’ do something is not appropriate and only limits the ability for growth.  I plan to help vow not to say ‘just’.  I have heard instructions from others for people to ‘just’ do something.  This makes people feel as though the person asking for the action does not understand that the request is not simple and creates a situation where the person being requested to do the action withdraws their desire to do any action. Saying ‘just’ is just not just, and just does not move anyone; even just a bit.

1 thought on “Top 4 warnings about the use of the word ‘just’ (It’s ‘just’ that easy)”

  1. Keith,
    Using your description of what you feel is the most offensive way to use the word “just”, I feel the same; however, did not think of using the word “condescending”, though that is exactly what it is – does not validate a person’s feelings, lack of empathy.
    Dealing with anxiety over the past few years, I have been told “just get over it”. To which I reply “oh, is that all I need to do? why didn’t I think of that solution” ?
    I appreciate the opportunity to read this helpful description.



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