Tag Archives: filler words

Um….

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I’ve been dipping into Michael Erard’s book, Um. Yes, that’s the title. The subtitle is Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean. Chances are you won’t be surprised to know that in American English, um and uh are the most common blunders, or fillers, accounting for 40 percent of what Erard calls “speech disturbances.” Those are words that interrupt the smooth flow of sentences.

In other places, people have their own fillers: in Britain, they say uh but spell it er (think of a Brit saying water or butter—you won’t hear an R at the end of those words). French speakers say something close to euh. Germans say äh and ähm, Hebrew speakers use ehhh, and Swedes say eh, ah, aaah, m, mm, hmm, ooh, a, and oh. Very versatile.

The point is that around the world, linguistic blunders exist, no matter the language. However, if you want to be a citizen of the world, um is pretty much universal.

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Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Words to Eliminate

“The dealership is holding a sales event over Memorial Day weekend.”

“Yesterday’s rain event in Oklahoma caused widespread flooding. However, tomorrow should bring only minimal shower activity.”

“The defense attorney cited acts of an inflammatory nature.”

“The drought condition has many farmers concerned.”

“The police responded to an emergency situation at the rest stop.”

Events, situations, conditions, and activities are almost always fillers used to make something sound more impressive (but not very effectively). Whenever you use one of those words, see if you can’t reword your sentence more concisely:

That dealership is holding a sale. The report was about yesterday’s rain in Oklahoma. The prospect for tomorrow is merely showers. Those farmers are worried about the drought, and the police officers responded to an emergency.

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Filed under All things having to do with the English language