Posted by Smokey Stover on June 21, 2006
In Reply to: "I'm just saying.." posted by D on June 21, 2006
: What is the origin of the popular saying "I'm just saying.." Like if I tell a friend. "I'm not saying you're at your skinniest. I'm just saying...(pause)"
The verb "to say" is transitive, that is, it requires an object. "I'm just saying" (or "I'm just saying..." if you prefer), in which no direct object follows, is an elliptical expression made intelligible by what precedes it in the conversation, that is, its antecedent. If you have been pointing something out to someone who strongly desires not to hear it, that individual may have a bad reaction, or may seem to be about to have a bad reaction. Exempli gratia, Friend: "Janice, you're really flirting with danger if you go out with that guy. You should be careful." Janice: "How dare you? Are you accusing him of something? Are you accusing me of being stupid?" Friend: "I'm just saying...." It's an effort to deflect anger and distrust generated by something you said in good faith and with good intentions. "I'm not accusing, I'm not criticizing, I'm just giving you something to think about by what I've been saying."
If you say, "I'm just saying...," you pre-suppose that your interlocutor already knows what you have been saying. You could, of course, be explicit: "I'm just saying, be careful."
I believe the phrase "I'm just saying," with no direct object, became popular in the 1980s or 1990s, but someone else may have better information.