Saturday, 4 June 2011

The "Likes" and "Ums" in Our Speech

I have recently caught myself at the thought that the language I speak is far from being trully beautiful. I did not mean to say I am swearing profusely! Yet, the languages I speak, both native and foreign, are in a way affected by so-called "non-words", or "fillers".
I have realised that whenever I chat with my Skype friends, or have a talk with my students or collegues, I do fill my speech with those silly "Errrs" of mine, especially when being puzzled, or "Soes" when thinking of what to say or do next. What I wanted to say, is that we fail to rememeber that these non-words make our speech rather unpleasant to listen to.

Of course, it is fairly appropriate to Umm and Uhh when one is overwhelemed with excitement, which makes it quite hard to find a proper way to word one's ideas! But as soon as one is becoming "kinda" addicted to "you knows" and "you sees" it makes me feel worried about the future of the language.

But how can we avoid it? And can we? With no doubt, we can! It will never do to let "wells" and "Awws" rule the world!

This is my list of simple tips on "How not to Umm":

1. Speak more. Do not be afraid of putting your ideas into words. Filler-words are like dogs: the more scared of them you are, the greater number of them appear to be wishing to atack you when you least expect it.

2. Read more. Better read classics, e.g. Jane Austin's novels or short stories of O'Henry's. I will never do you bad anyway.

3. Make notes when reading. I usually keep a pencil at hand when reading. At noticing some nice grand word to use I immediately underline it or write it out. Either words or word phrases or sentences even would do. For example, I have recently read a book entitled as "Stardust" and found a good deal of interesting phrases:
  • ...she slept on, unaware how close she had come to her doom, nor how slim a margin she had escaped it.
  • ..she sang so quitely he could hear next to nothing at all..
4. Watch less silly comedy films. They seem to embrace the whole world of swear words alongside with filler words. But keep on watching good, funny films either with or without subtitles! Remember, any film can help you if you really want the help. Just be attentive, pick out words, intonation and even gestures - all these tings might serve you good some time!

5. Just controll yourself, that's all. As soon as you feel like using a filler, try to paraphrase it with some ther word you know.

Believe it or not, but following these tips will never make you hesitate less in your speech! Still, even if it doesn't help you avoid fillers in your speech, it might at least be a good way to enlarge your vocabulary!

And do you think that using filler-words in speech, either oral or written, is a problem?

What are your fillers?

Do you use them often?


  1. I think it is a problem for some people, to such an extent that it may be unpleasant to listen to them speaking. As for me, I have never used fillers - I just keep silent if I haven't decided what to say or how to say it, which sometimes makes people look at me in surprise. :)

  2. You're absolutely right, Olga! It is rather unpleasant to listen to some people who seem to have nothing to say, but fillers. Most of all,I can't stand hearing these "kindas". Oh, what a terrible way to express oneself! :)
    You are an example to follow, Olga! I would not say I am very addicted to fillers, still, from time to time, I hear myself polluting the language with these non-words. There are not many of the fake linkers and filler words I personally use, fortunately! There is still hope, I believe! .)

  3. I must compliment you to have written something so unusual, in a lucid style!
    I too have noticed myself and others around using unwanted fillers that indeed make a simple discussion unpleasant. And I must add, that the tips you have mentioned in your post, i am already following point 1, 2, 3 and 5. They are helpful and i can vouch for that!
    I have tried reading classics like "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen, it's good. However, as per my experience, reading a classic sometimes gets dry and you tend to lose interest after some time; I believe one must start from easy to read novels to get a hang of the language initially and later on switch to classics when you are comfortable with the language.
    These days I am reading a book named "Life is what you make it" by an amateur novelist, however it is a narration with umpteen smart phrases, written in flawless English, which makes the book an interesting read!

  4. Thank you, Parul, for complimenting my lucid style .)
    Glad you agree with the tips i have cited out!
    As for reading classics, you're quite right, it mightwell get dry reading the. Still, I consider it a great challenge up! Moreover, there are funny classics! Why not read them&! ,)