In which I propose to get rid of a word I don't think we need now

"I'm just a student x-ray technician," 
the young man with the kind eyes told me as he adjusted the overhead camera.

The hitch in my get-along is healing up beautifully

"I'm just a Green Bean," said a lovely woman in the Endurance 101 clinic at HOTR.

"If they'd just quit clear cutting the forests, we wouldn't have landslides like Oso."

You know what?  I want to get rid of that word.

I deeply object to a word that, in our language, gives permission for the speaker to simplify really complex stuff.

The Xray tech student pays tuition, studies hard, and shows up at the clinic five days each week, rain or shine, to gain the skills to pass the classes so that he can work at a needful job to earn a good paycheck.  That's not "just" a small thing.  That's a big thing, it's important, and it deserves to be recognized.

Green Bean riders who stick with our sport learn heaps about taking care of horses, about navigating over a variety of terrain, about pacing themselves through a long and strenuous day.  They learn about nutrition (equine and human), relationships (also equine and human), and emergencies (of all kinds).  They learn about maintaining a truck/trailer rig to keep it rolling safely over highways, local roads, and cowfields.  This is a complicated sport, and the complexity of the task for Green Beans deserves to be appreciated.

As for the Oso landslide, I invite all the yabbos who flood my inbox every day with fingerpointing accusations and simple solutions to come on out and get your boots muddy in the toxic goop that is currently covering about a mile of highway not far from Haiku Farm.  Some of that goop is twenty feet deep--in other words, it's about 2 stories tall.  And it is not "just" a combination of dirt and water, either.  The mud mixture is a terrible slurry of dirt, water, lumber, hardware, truck parts, propane tanks, fertilizer, family photos, and the bashed up remains of the people and animals who got run over by a mountain.  Finding all causes of the slide will require the a complex team of clever people who can somehow figure out which of the contributing factors finally tipped the bucket.  These factors include but aren't limited to: gravity, time, rainfall, human meddling, the movement of glaciers, and the Will of God.  There is no "just" in this puzzle, and there's no simple solution for the survivors and the recovery teams.  

If I sound a little angry, maybe I am.

If I sound like maybe I think we should stand up straight and own our learning curves, probably I do.

If I sound like I'm going to make a proposal, it's entirely possible that is exactly what I intend to do.

Here it is, the Haiku Farm challenge for the month of April:

Take the word "just" out of your vocabulary.  

Catch yourself saying it, and don't.  

Gently help those around you to get rid of the word too.

Take credit for the tough tasks you've accomplished and don't diminish the hard work you face.  

When you face down a challenge, be proud.  

When you see somebody doing something difficult, recognize it (and give a hand if you are able).

When you're tempted to simplify a complex problem, embrace the complexity and try to solve the whole thing, not just the easy part.

Not "just" a standardbred, and not "just" a total hip replacement patient aboard her.

Is this a crazy proposal?  Tell me what you think in the comments box.


  1. Amen Aarene!! I hear that word from nurses in the hospital when I come to fix their computer, as in "I'm just a nurse". I tell them I'm just a computer tech and I can't do what they do. Makes me nuts.

  2. I've come to realize that if I see anything in black and white, then it's because I don't know enough about the issue - because everything seems to be shades of grey. Thank you for raising the issue of the word "just". I hadn't realized how "simplifying" and condensending the term was and I'll be watching my communications closely to see where and when I use it, and work on eliminating it.

  3. Solid post. Totally agree. Need to mull this over in more depth.

  4. Definitely something to think about, thanks!

  5. Thank you for this post. My profession is riddled with this word. I work in the veterinary field, where veterinarians consider themselves "just" vets (never mind that they know how to treat all the diseases in multiple species) and vet techs (which I am) consider themselves "just" techs. We are not "just" vet techs...we do what a phlebotomist, radiology technician, ultrasound technician, physician's assistant, RN, surgical assistant, medical billing, dental hygienist, and lab technician do...for a fraction of the pay...for multiple species.

    Thank you. "Just" is definitely one of those words that we should eliminate from our everyday conversations.

  6. Excellent piece to think about. I'm totally guilty of this. Mindless of 20 years experience in my field, I tend to downplay important projects, "just" another thing. I need to be conscious of this phrasing, in all aspects. Thank you for the reminder.

    And it's great to see you not "just" on your horse, but riding the Dragon, pain free!

  7. So true! Recognizing the contributions we all make as individuals is such a positive way to brighten the world! That x-ray looks clean & neat!

  8. Hear hear! It has always bothered me when women say "I'm just a mom" - as if that wasn't one of the most important and most difficult jobs on earth. I'm all for removing 'just' from our vocabulary!

  9. I have to speak up here...the word *just* has several meanings-- let's NOT remove the word; let's educate folks on how to use it correctly. I do that all year when teaching people how to write scientific papers.
    1.based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair.
    "a just and democratic society"
    synonyms: fair, fair-minded, equitable, even-handed, impartial, unbiased, objective, neutral, disinterested, unprejudiced, open-minded, nonpartisan; More
    antonyms: unfair
    (of treatment) deserved or appropriate in the circumstances.
    "we all get our just deserts"
    synonyms: deserved, well deserved, well earned, earned, merited; More
    antonyms: undeserved
    (of an opinion or appraisal) well founded; justifiable.
    "these simplistic approaches have been the subject of just criticism"
    synonyms: valid, sound, well-founded, justified, justifiable, warranted, legitimate More
    antonyms: unfair, wrongful
    adverb: just
    "that's just what I need"
    synonyms: exactly, precisely, absolutely, completely, totally, entirely, perfectly, utterly, wholly, thoroughly, in all respects; More
    exactly or almost exactly at this or that moment.
    "she's just coming"
    very recently; in the immediate past.
    "I've just seen the local paper"
    synonyms: a moment ago, a second ago, a short time ago, very recently, not long ago

  10. GREAT post, I completely agree.


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