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The things people say that mean the exact opposite

We say so many things so often, that quite often they lose all meaning. Some phrases, however, are used even when their true meaning is the exact opposite of what is said. Here are some to liven up your Sunday.

I’m truly humbled. Ah, that favourite of Kenyans, especially when accepting an award. Ostensibly, it means “I’m so surprised and honoured to be recognized, and so grateful.” But no, that’s not the true meaning. It actually means: “So you people have finally recognized my worth? What took you so long? It’s about time someone woke up to my exceptional qualities. But I can’t say that in my speech, so I’ll say how humbling it it. People seem to like that.”

I responded to the pleas of my people. No politician, it seems, ever wants to be a leader. Most were entirely content minding their goats or teaching orphans, until “the people” came calling. The people are the ones who plead with excellent people who were minding their own business to sacrifice it all and stand for election. The heroic figure declines courteously, but then cannot look away from the poverty on the faces of the children. That’s the story, anyway. The truth? More like: “I was born to lead. Not for them, but for me. I would kill for that seat, and probably will. I don’t have any other life or source of income. But because some ancient Greek fellow said reluctant leaders are the best ones, I’m forced to pretend I had to be persuaded.”

This is a corruption-free zone. Now, why would you write that anywhere? And why is it found in every government office? Because it points to the opposite. This is a corruption-full zone. This is in fact the home of corruption. This, visitors, is the epicentre of graft. Even the sign itself was procured at remarkably inflated rates. Do not step in here if you haven’t brought money.

Our employees come first. No, they don’t. Mostly, they come last. The owner’s bank account comes first. The owner’s ambitions for himself – his trophy wife, his garage of flashy cars, his snakeskin shoes, his pricey rounds at the bar, his golf memberships – come second to tenth. Customers come 11th, because they pay for everything, and have to feature somewhere. Employees? They come last. Mere resources. Interchangeable. Expendable. Replaceable. Last.

On the same note, often stated in Kenya: We are an equal opportunity employer. Right, right. Of course you are. Merit only.

The customer is always right. Said to make you, the customer, think you run the show. Actually, you’re never right. We just have to pretend you are. In reality, you’re the sucker in the game, the patsy. So how can you be right? You’re too dumb to know you’re buying stuff that isn’t good for you, at prices that are designed to confuse you. Read the small print, dude (actually, we know you won’t, ha ha). Similar: Your call is important to us. Translation: your call is the most annoying part of our job. That’s why we never deploy enough staff or systems to answer it in time. But you never go away, do you? Whine, whine, whine…please hold.

It’s not the money, it’s the principle. No, it’s the money. People who are doing it for the principle never have to justify themselves. Incidentally, the people who say this are also the most likely to say: Next time it’s on me.

Now, a lie we all tell every day in the digital era: I have read and understood the terms and conditions. Tick.

And finally, also in the digital era: All my own work. (Nope. Many thanks to everyone who responded to the trending hashtag #ThingsThatMeanTheOpposite for their witty observations.)

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