May 22, 2013
Written by Ellen Beveridge
Wednesday, 15 August 2012 12:24
In preparing to write this column, I've been listening more intently than usual to radio and television programs and to the conversations of everyday people.
In so doing, it's made me more aware than ever of the many unnecessary and meaningless words and phrases that bombard the airwaves.
My conclusion is that many of the offenders are the radio and television talk show hosts, politicians and commentators as they fill our ears and minds with useless verbiage.
Here are just a few of the phrases that come to mind: "As a matter of fact...The bottom line is...In other words...Let me make it perfectly clear...At the end of the day."
Now tell me, honestly, what does the listener really glean from hearing any of these phrases? Or put another way, what do phrases like this have to do with what the speaker is really saying?
Filler and pause phrases... that's what they are, as the person, possibly subconsciously, gropes for those extra couple of seconds to collect his or her thoughts.
More succinct thinking that becomes more succinct speech, that's what's needed; but for many that is not easily achieved, especially if the words are spoken extemporaneously, or off the cuff.
Perhaps these phrases have become so common that they have become acceptable. True, they're all part of the English language, but enough is enough.
I can't help but wonder what people who are learning to speak English make of all these unnecessary phrases. Don't all these extra words make it just that much more difficult to understand what is being said and what they mean?
Of course, I have to include "you know" in the "heard enough already" category; those two little words that pepper so many people's conversations.
Recently, I was watching a baseball player being interviewed on TV; his replies were so filled with "you knows" that he barely made sense. I couldn't help but feel sorry for him; he was obviously so "unaccustomed to public speaking," as the old saying goes, and so uncomfortable with facing the camera and coming up with answers.
There's a popular TV interviewer who invariably approaches his interviewee with, "Let me ask you a question?" Of course, that's the reason he's there — to ask questions, but it sounds like he's seeking permission.
When I listen to radio talk shows the dialogue often go something like this:
Radio host says, "Jim (last names never used) from Garden City, you're on the air."
The caller replies, "Thank-you for taking my call," or a polite, "How are you?" or the more common, "How ya doin'?"
It makes me want to scream at the caller: "Get on with it. The host doesn't need to be thanked, and I'm sure you're really not interested in the state of his health."
All this listening to radio and TV, and also when people are speaking, has made me more conscious than ever of the worn-thin phrases.
People become so accustomed to using the same phrases and words that they become so much a part of their every conversation
For example, I have a relative who is chatty and interesting to listen to, but I've become uncomfortably aware of how often she begins a sentence with, "It's funny," when often what follows isn't really funny at all.
On to the pause words: "Well...look...OK...like." There's a popular TV commentator who nine times out of 10 begins a sentence with "look." I'm so conditioned to the word that I find myself waiting for another "look." When the speaker doesn't disappoint, my immediate response is, "There he goes again."
How often one hears the word "basically"? And one I'm guilty of over-using is "anyway." I'm often aware of this pause word, but it just seems to pop out from force of habit; this habit of pausing is often categorized as a "thought connector".
Finally, there are those ever so common utterances that aren't words at all: "Err...ah...uh...um." Very few speak without using them.
So — ah, um, look, you know, anyway — that's all I've got to say.
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