'He’s a divisional vice president,’ I answered K when she asked if my friend Ben was a vice president. I had to catch myself. I almost said, ‘He’s just a divisional VP.’ So this week I want to call out the little innocent-seeming adverb, ‘just.’
On my random linguistic kicks, I’ve mused on the conjunction ‘but,’ adverbs in general, and the also-seemingly-innocent pronoun ‘they.’ As defined, ‘just’ can mean ‘exactly.’ So yes, Ben is exactly a DVP. What I’ve come to realize, though, is that using the word ‘just’ seems to, as the Hemingway Editor purports, weaken the word it precedes. Oh, he’s just a DVP. Not a fancy vice president. Wait. No, he’s a DVP. A damn fine one, at that. And an all-around wonderful guy.
It’s a thing of mine: catching myself when I’m about to say ‘just,’ or right after, and correcting myself. I actually can’t think of a time it’s all that necessary to use. Maybe in response to the question, ‘Do you want a coffee?’ Umm, yes that’s just what I need!