Perspective on filler words

Fast Company updates the use of filler words. First, a look back:

Back in journalism school, I had a Pulitzer Prize-winning professor who impressed upon his students the most critical of points: “Punctuating your speech with like is a guarantee for unemployment.”


Clearly, if we’re going to get some proper insight into the English language, we should turn to the BBC. Turns out that using like is this, like, linguistic-generational thing. First of all, everybody uses fillers–whether um, like, or uh–because we can’t, as Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang editor John Ayto says, keep up “highly monitored, highly grammatical language” all the time.

“It is not a lazy use of language–that is a common fallacy among nonlinguists,” he says. “We have always used words to plug gaps or make sentences run smoothly. They probably did in Anglo-Saxon times; it’s nothing new.”

What to keep in mind the next time you’re the ah counter:

Just because people have been using filler words since Beowulf was smiting all your best friends doesn’t mean that filler is a fine thing. Sara McCord, the Daily Muse writer, says that she kicked her like habit by paying better attention to her words, and not needing to, like, lean on the linguistic lard of like or um. So one solution, then, is to pay closer to attention to your words before you speak them–which is something we can all be a little more mindful of.


Thinking Words


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