Um, ur ... no, wait, let me rephrase that

Just finished an interesting book on speech disfluencies – Um: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean, by Michael Erard.

In one section, the author is talking about the two basic ways that people speak in everyday life, when no one is producing sentence after sentence of smooth, un-hiccuped prose. People either throw in “ums” and “ers,” or repeat individual words, while they wait for their brain to catch up with their mouth – or they will start a sentence, then, in mid-sentence, decide to take another tack and completely start over. Quoting Erard here:

I am such a total um/uh-er that I was astonished to find there’s this whole other way of stumbling through a conversation (though I’ll tell ya, I’m eavesdropping in public with great fascination these days).

So – which are you? This is obviously profoundly unscientific – but take a minute and act out telling someone about what you had for dinner last night. Do it mentally if you’re at work (or if your loved ones are in the immediate vicinity and easily freaked out by signs of mental illness), or out loud – it should be come clear within a couple of minutes which you are.

I do neither and both. Almost always, I speak pretty quickly, with little or no filler, and I’m fine with the way it comes out. Even if after I’m through speaking, a better way to phrase what I stated comes to me, I leave it alone; screw it, my point was clear. When struggling to articulate an idea, I do both. There are “errs,” “umm,” and pauses, and if suddenly a better way to phrase my idea comes to me, I’ll start over.

I’m a long-time Toastmaster and part of the reason I’m still a member after almost 20 years and recieving the highest award the organization bestows on its members is that I’m still working on converting my many ums and ers into the second option (and ultimately, eliminating them all together) - I do much more restarting than ums ers, but my speech from Wednesday night reminded me why I’m still there …

This is harder than I thought. I don’t do the um and er thing, really, but now that I’m old enough to constantly forget the names of people, places and stuff in general, when I’m inarticulate, I sound like Grandpa Simpson. Without the narcolepsy and drool. Yet.

When I’m alone and pontificating grandly to myself about some insignificant nonsense, I sound almost entirely articulate. However, when I am having an ordinary conversation, and then ramp up into rant mode, I suddenly get tongue-tied and my mind goes blank.

Generally I don’t contribute much to a chat, I mostly stay quiet in the corner, but when I do join in it tends to be clear and relatively hesitation-free.

I change mid-sentence to something else. I’ll “umm” and “err” at the start of a thought/sentence, but once I get going and realize I don’t know what I’m saying, or that I’ve missed what I intended to say, I’ll go until I’ve said it six ways from Sunday then finally, maybe, stop.

I noticed long ago that I am a sentence changer. I will start, but then have another thought, interrupt myself, then go on. I first noticed it reading a transcript of some research in which I was one of the subjects. I didn’t finish a single sentence without interrupting myself.

I came in to say something similar to Brynda. I have never used any ums, ers or ahs although I sometimes just pause for a second if, for instance, I have forgotten a name.

If I recount something concrete, like the plot of the last movie I saw, I will mostly cruise straight through. However when I am talking off the top of my head and making it up as I go, each more interesting thought causes me to head off on a new tangent. Sometimes after a few changes of direction I have to backtrack to remember what I am actually talking about. I used to do it far more seamlessly when I was younger and less forgetful.

I’m an uhm, errr, uhhh ahhh person.

It’s better then the alternative, I guess. I made a conscious effort to stop saying uhh so much… and just ended up blurting out stupid crap that didn’t even make sense and making ridiculous non-sequiturs all the time.

I’m closest to the second, I guess. I hate filler words and avoid them, but often my brain goes so much faster than my tongue that I need to stop, pick the thread up again and continue. And if I see that the other person isn’t understanding what I say, I assume it’s because I’m not explaining it correctly, so I go back to the last point where he looked like he got it and start rephrasing from there while using more requests for confirmation than I previously was.

I was a radio personality for many years. I quickly learned to eliminate 99% of the "um"s and "err"s from my speech.

Been off the air almost 20 years now and still find myself inwardly slapping myself when I do.

If I need to um or err…I just pause.

I did speech & debate in high school, and the first thing they do to you as a freshman is drill all those um’s and er’s out of you. They still creep in sometimes of course, particularly if i’m just searching for one particular word and the conversation is extremely casual. Anything more than that, however, and I’m much more likely to just pause for a second and formulate a new sentence.

I chose the second option, but I’m not sure it’s really accurate. I’ve trained myself to avoid actually umming most of the time, but I often pause for a few seconds where others would um. I also frequently restart sentences when I realize the first go is unsalvageable.

This. I removed the ‘‘ums’’ from my speech, for the most part, when I first learned public speaking in 4th grade.

I just attempted to relay to my husband what I had for dinner last night. Based on my unscientific analysis I conclude that I am a ‘‘pause, then restart the sentence’’ kind of person. Sometimes, in casual conversation, I will literally say something like, ‘‘I am struggling to articulate myself here.’’ And then, ‘‘Okay’’ (meaning, let’s put this another way) and proceed with a new sentence.

That sounds like an interesting book. I’m going to look out for it.

I think I’m a restarted, which I particularly notice when I’m speaking foreign languages. One of the biggest problems I have is getting well into a sentence and realizing that it’s too complex, and then I have to think it through and restart. I think I do the same, though to a lesser extent, in English. I like complex sentences and sometimes use them irresponsibly. :slight_smile:

Actually, I think it’s because I get into these complicated sentences that I’m an ummer – I get partway in, then need to stop and take stock.

And, in my own defense, my repeating is often that, repeating – it’s not unusual for me to repeat a “the” a half dozen times while trying to think of the word I want next.