30 November, 2009


I happened across this rather fascinating article regarding linguisitic fillers on Wikipedia the other day. It's actually less of an article than a listing of common fillers in different languages, but what would you say about fillers?

"Uh, it's sort of like, you know, um, when you use a thingymajig to, um, talk, er, about, like, things." A sentence almost entirely composed of fillers.

Essentially fillers are just generic sounds which can be interspersed with intelligible dialogue to denote that you haven't yet relinquished control of the conversation and are pausing merely to order your thoughts.

Some people hate them unneccessarily, assuming, it seems, that because overuse of fillers sounds rotten and uneducated, any use of them makes you automatically sound like an idiot. This is an exaggeration, of course. Fillers have certainly existed for at least several generations more than any of us have been around, reaching well back into an era when the educated populace was generally much better educated than the average American today. Probably even Shakespeare used fillers. I seem to remember a couple appearing more than once in dialogues of his plays.

On the other hand, it's rather tragic that our public officials, of all people, can't seem to string together a single sentence (without the back up of their speech writers) that doesn't include enough fillers to garble the meaning of the sentence almost beyond recognition. Ever heard Barack Obama speak without a teleprompter?

1 comment:

Turin Hurinson said...

An interesting and somewhat related phenomenon: http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/001123.html

And the current location of the blog (the above link is to something from their old archives): http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/