I’m always suspicious when people use the word just. It seems like such an innocent word — not like those other kinds of four-letter words. You hear it slipped easily into conversations every day. But, beware, there is a magical element to the word just where the truth can hide and the trouble lies.
I think of the magical just as some kind of amoeba-like yardstick that instantly stretches and changes shape to fit the circumstances. Its unit of measure is based on some kind of fuzzy math that the IRS would disallow.
Weathermen often use the magical just. “Just a few inches of snow” can become a blizzard soon enough. More than once, I have heard the weatherman say, “Just a few showers expected overnight” and happily gone to bed to dream sweet dreams. Then, I wake up in the morning, instantly regretting putting off those swimming lessons, because it has rained so hard that I now live on a houseboat.
Children love the magical just. It often appears at the scene of a fight. One of my nephews will exclaim with great passionate, “I just tapped him,” to explain why his brother is howling in pain. However, I have learned through careful investigation, physical examinations, and eyewitness accounts that just tapped means he has tackled his brother with all the force of football player in a championship game.
The magical just often accompanies home a child who has been misbehaving in school. Pleas of innocence or persecution always start with “I just…” The “I just…” is the part that they did say or do right before the part they would never admit to their parents. Sometimes, if you look closely, you can see the magical just yardstick measuring out how much truth to tell to avoid punishment.
My sister uses the magical just to measure time. She has a way of leaving me in the car while she runs an errand, saying she will be back in “just a minute.” By the time she finally returns I have gone from people watching to cleaning out my purse to playing a game on my cell phone to chewing all my gum to taking a nap. But, now I know that “just a minute” is actually 20 minutes or so.
The magical just often arrives at the scene of an accident even before the police. “Just a little dent” or “it’s just a scratch” are some of assessments you will hear. But, with a single glance, you can tell that your car needs lots of repair.
Now, maybe I’m giving just a bad name, after all, these could be coincidences. But to play it safe, remember this verse.
Just starts innocently enough,
It’s a way to approximate all kinds of stuff.
But, when it gets its magic wings,
Just can become a very tricky thing.
The magical “just” is such a slippery slide,
It gives the truth a place to hide.
So, watch out, for when it may appear,
It can cause trouble have no fear.