The first time anyone of importance asked for my advice was one day when my great-uncle called me. I was still in high school at the time. It made quite an impact on me that this was an adult, someone whom I respected, asking for MY advice. The issue was auto-related and, as it happened, we worked things out together to his satisfaction.
We are all fortunate to have people in our lives to whom we can turn when we have questions. They may be someone related, a clergy or close friends. In general, I’ve followed the advice I’ve sought and received.
I see a distinction between offering an “opinion” and offering “advice.” Many bad things have followed the statement “Well, in my opinion....” In far too many cases, these opinions are unsolicited, which further diminishes their value. “In my opinion, that dog looks pretty tame. Go ahead and give him a hug!” That sounds pretty dubious.
But when you give someone advice, it seems to carry more weight. “I would advise you to hold off hugging that dog until your insurance deductible is met.” Well that certainly sounds wise!
Both of the words “opinion” and “advice” seem to have legal significance, too. Of course, I’m not a lawyer. So, in my opinion, I may be totally wrong, and my advice is don’t file any legal action based on anything written in this article.
I’ve seen where Supreme Court judges produce an “opinion” when deciding a case. The opinion can be a majority opinion or a minority one. I have wondered why the minority bothers with publishing their opinion. After all, they couldn’t even convince a majority of their colleagues that they were right. But I think they do it because the minority opinion serves as a CYA for the judges’ future reputations. When history ultimately decides which side was most righteous in deciding a particular issue, the minority opinion can become a posthumous “I told you so.”
Lawyers offer “advice” to their clients. That is why you are paying them. Take the phrase “Upon advice of counsel, I refuse to answer on the grounds that the answer may tend to incriminate me.” It sounds very lawyerly. I’ve heard it spoken inside many television courtrooms but have never actually been present in a real live courtroom when someone said it. But I know it is used in courts every day. And it certainly sounds more impactful than saying “Judge, my sister’s opinion is that I should shut up now before I get myself into even more trouble,” which means basically the same thing by invoking the fifth amendment. But would that statement even fly in a courtroom? Would the judge then say, “Well son, in my opinion, you should listen to your sister” and excuse that person from testifying?
For vocab buffs among you, the word “opinion” is a combination of words. The first is a North Carolina word “opi,” which is an abbreviated reference to Sheriff Andy Taylor’s son. Combine that with the word “nion,” a lesser-known alternate spelling of the word “neon,” which is a gas. Therefore, the direct translation of the word “opinion” is “Opie’s gas.” That explains a lot.
“Advice,” on the other hand, is a compound word using “add,” which is something cumulative, and a “vice” which has to do with clamps. Hence the direct meaning is “more in the grasp.” And that is the lawyer’s job – to give you a better handle on things. So, to wrap this up neatly for Steve, when it comes to opinions and advice, the challenge is to try to keep clear on what is real and beneficial, as opposed to what is just a bit of gas from the southern region.
Johnny McNally is Grimes County’s Best Dressed Businessman advocating for Grimes County.