Pupil wins £700 for spotting 'you knows'

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The Independent US

There can be few things more anti-climactic than when a victorious athlete is collared for a breathless interview, and can muster only a succession of inarticulate "you knows" and "do you know what I means?".

But an American schoolboy has turned the incoherence of a top athlete to his own advantage by winning a school scholarship awarded for spotting the least silver-tongued verbal performance in a television exchange.

Each year, a retired United States Air Force officer gives $1,000 (£700) to a pupil who can find the worst example of over-use of the words "you know". The latest prize has gone to Evan Koontz, a pupil at Lincoln Pound Middle School, who had the excruciating experience of hearing an athlete use the dreaded phrase 30 times in the space of a 135-second conversation.

He becomes the sixth recipient of the scholarship funded by Barney Oldfield, a 92-year-old veteran of the Second World War who wants to highlight the way that the phrase is filling the airwaves.

The proliferation of "you know", be it at the beginning or end of a sentence or to fill a hiatus in the middle, has been diagnosed as chronic among American teenagers.

The scholarship has previously been awarded to 13-year-old Molly Kamrath who beat 50 other entries in 2000 with a recording of an interview boasting 21 "you knows" in four minutes. Mr Oldfield wrote: "To get 21 'you knows' in four minutes is stark testimony about how dreadfully littered we have made our beautiful English language. It deserves better treatment."

In 1999, Jessica Reinsch took the coveted prize with a recording of a radio interview featuring 61 examples of the verbal fumble in 15 minutes.

Mr Oldfield's campaign against "you know" is part of a lifetime of philanthropy. He has provided scholarships worth a total of $3m.