Where do these things come from?

No pressure!

How often do you hear that phrase? For me it’s about once a day, but three times wouldn’t be odd. As I understand it, this is now what we say when someone has been given a task which involves a lot of ‘pressure’ or high stakes dependent on its successful completion. But where the hell did it come from? I understand neologisms appear all the time (‘ideate’ is one that particularly makes me want to shoot puppies in the head), but this isn’t a new word; it’s an old pair of words that seems to combine within a couple of specific circumstances: first, it can only be used in situations where pressure is being applied, then you require the presence of someone who feels the need to defuse the addition of pressure in a jocular fashion (the expectation is that a laugh or smile will follow the delivery of the words). But why that phrase and why now? Is it anything to do with an increased prevalence in pressure, or is it simply a way to get a cheap and easy laugh, or a feeling of connection?


To be fair, ‘caveat’ has been on the table for a while, but I’d argue its use has increased a great deal in the last ten years. For those of you who aren’t 100% sure, it means ‘a warning or proviso of specific stipulations, conditions, or limitations’. In that sense it’s a perfect label for client feedback that sounds so much more civilised than ‘warning’ or ‘demand’; it’s just a sweet little caveat, and that makes it sound like a tiny woodland mammal instead of the delivery of napalm to your most cherished idea that it actually is. No idea why it gained its new status but I don’t go a working week without hearing it at least thrice.


Are we in a new era of storytelling? Of course not, but narratives (or stories) seem to be much more common these days. I often hear it not just in the context of a tale, but as a generally accepted version of what’s gone on, eg: ‘you can’t say that player broke his leg; it doesn’t fit the narrative’. So not just a story but an ongoing version of events that one doesn’t deviate from. I don’t remember hearing it much before a few years ago because it was pretty superfluous against the robust and usual story. But now that it has its different meaning it’s gained a new lease of life (still sounds a bit wanky, though).

Any that you’ve noticed?