This past summer, I had the misfortune of sitting across the table from a person who whined, “My university paid for my airfare and gave me only $6,000 for this eight-week internship. Lucky for me Bratislava is way cheaper than I expected.”
On one level, I had an iota of jealousy — because I want institutions to hand me plane tickets and large amounts of money — but on another, I was annoyed by her use of “only.” That “only” said almost everything about the speaker’s upbringing. She had used the intonation the traveling offspring of the well-to-do use when talking about having heard about couchsurfing or wanting to try hitchhiking. The downbeat placed on the verb, the condescension on the noun. If somehow that mere $6,000 had been spent in such a short time, then all of us listening knew that reinforcements were only a phone call and a bank transfer away. It was only the sound of her parents’ money in her voice, and, unfortunately, only the sound of her asphyxiating on its leash.