Last Friday, when I was listening to B107.3 in the morning, prior to their 4 And No More game, they played the Um-Uh game. The rules are paraphrased below.

“To win, talk for 30 seconds on one of your favorite vacations. But you can’t use the words ‘um,’ ‘uh,’ or unnatural pauses. If you do, we’ll buzz you and you’ll lose.”

Thinking about ums, uhs, and similar conversational fillers obviously inspired a blog post. In some sense, this post has been stewing since 2001!

But beforehand, here’s a pictorial intro to the post, from 2011 and SPG’s Word At A Time Proverbs. (The first line is the most salient here…)

Um I um like like kitties

Yes,  the year 2001. I can explain. In 2012, Cindy Lange-Kubick wrote a “follow-up” human interest story on my Asperger syndrome. In fact, my Gravatar is the photo from said article. The original article was written in 2001, and one of the claims stuck out to me after I heard this game. (The full 2001 article is available on this link.)

“He does not use the phrases ‘you know,’ or ‘like,’ and rarely says ‘whatever.'”

At the time that I read the article, I was unaware of the ways in which people use “you know” or “like” as conversational fillers. Seemingly, right after that article was published, it made me more conscious of others that use “you know,” “like,” “uh,” “um,” and suchlike conversational fillers. I had also read, sometime in high school, an article about peoples’ overuse of weak words or meaningless conversational fillers. (Source monitoring is getting to me, though!)

Today, and even back then, I use “uh” and “um” to fill time rather than being silent, but I still do not use “like” or “you know” in that way. However, when listening to a speaker, if the fillers are particularly blatant, I will discreetly (and discretely… ha!) count the use of fillers. Of course, I am vulnerable to other uses of weakening words, including, but not limited to, “tend,” “seem,” and “appear.”

Then, in 2003, another example of conversational fillers came up: on the game show Cram where in the Rant Round, the contestants lost five points for every pause, off-topic, um/uh/stutter. Not as bad as outright losing, but the sudden red flash of light and horn is enough to dissuade the use of those words!

Before I sign off, I wanted to make one more point. I mentioned in a blog post a while ago: I write how I speak. However, this post puts a qualifier on the previous one! Why? Though I do not use fillers when writing, the THINKING of what to write is FULL of ums, uhs, etc. In some sense, although I claim to not censor myself, I do censor meaningless expressions in my writing.  (Qualifiers, on the other hand…)

Are you aware of your usage of fillers in conversation? If so, does it pose a problem for you? Let me know!


NABC: 24 days

Menomonie: <= 40 days

UW-Stout classes start: 58 days

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P.S. Thinking of this led to one of my favorite Word At A Time Proverb in improv from a few years ago: “


2 thoughts on “Um…

  1. Yes, I am terribly aware of it.
    And I hate myself for it.
    I came across “rules” for Toastmasters. Instead of verbal fillers, it encouraged the use of “the refreshing pause”. Or that’s how I remember it was worded.

    Though, when I do successfully eliminate verbal fillers, I tend to speak slower than usual, with or without the pause. And certain people tease me. “His thoughts are still loading.”

    Liked by 1 person

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