You know, um, I’d kind of like to talk about filler words

It’s even possible to say ‘um’ in American Sign Language

Share

So, like, the easiest way to make yourself cringe like you’ve never cringed before is to, you know, record yourself speaking and realise how much conversational chaff there is among the words you speak.

Filler words – ums, uhs, likes, you knows, actuallys, basicallys – aren’t something I usually notice in my, or anyone else’s, everyday speech, but whenever I conduct an interview for the paper, my dictaphone records all these verbal tics and more.

Suddenly, every sentence that an interviewee forms begins with “at the end of the day” and every question I ask has its clarity befogged by sort ofs, kind ofs and you knows. Having to transcribe one’s witterings is punishment for journalists who, like me, never quite got up to speed with their, you know, shorthand. Last week, though, I realised it’s possible to go one worse. I watched a film of an interview I’d done (where I was being asked the questions, rather than the other way round), and while the interviewer, a charming broadcast journalism masters student named Luke Garratt (if there are any telly folk reading, give that guy a job), was a consummate professional, I you-knowed to dangerously embarrassing levels. I also learned never to lean back in a relaxed manner when being videoed, because it makes me look as though I’m wearing a snood made out of my own neck fat. Good to know.

As I viewed the finished interview through the filter of a large glass of wine, my husband helpfully pointed out every time I rushed my words and said you know. But once it was over and we were chatting about life, the universe and the pet tortoise, he suddenly realised his own filler flashpoints. Yep, you know, basically, I mean. Even if you watch yourself, they march, ant-like, into conversation wherever they can.

However, what I didn’t realise was that not only do filler words help speakers – we use them when our mouth is moving faster than our brain – they can give listeners time to process the information being imparted. Recent research has show that the occasional “um” can increase the listener’s memory for the word that comes after “um”. It can also be harder to follow conversations when filler words aren’t used. And there’s another fascinating fact that made me feel better about my inarticulacy. Every language has filler words, including American Sign Language. OK, so fillers don’t make for the most elegant way of expressing ourselves, but they do have a place. But, you know, I’m going to try and use them a little more sparingly.

twitter.com/rebeccaj

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A police officer carries a casualty to safety  

Tunisia attack proves that we cannot stop terrorists carrying out operations against Britons in Muslim countries

Robert Verkaik
Alan Titchmarsh MP?  

Alan Titchmarsh MP? His independent manifesto gets my vote

Jane Merrick
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with excess, cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies