Posted by: Diane | November 1, 2013

“Um” Part 2

It’s true.  I overheard a conversation this morning between two teenagers and I’m pretty sure there were more pause fillers than actual content!  I do believe that “like” was the winner but definitely, “um” was a close second.

How about you?  Did you pay more attention to the content of your conversations today?

As odd as it sounds, the history of the “um” is a very interesting read.

According to the author of this fascinating book, “our aesthetic of umlessness didn’t crystallize until Edison’s invention of the phonograph brought speaking back to listeners and provided the first incontrovertible evidence of their own imperfections.”  This was the first time that people really took note of the breakdown of a conversation and “the prohibition against “um” probably grew into a general expectation of flawless speaking with the advent of the radio.”

Now there were new standards for speaking. Orators needed a specific place to take a breath and it became a moment to plan what to say next…but it didn’t sound good and people became to prize umlessness.

“People began to prefer umlessness in public speaking and conversation around the same time they began to value order, organization, planning and efficiency in an increasingly complex and organizing society”…

…and that brings us to the Toastmasters meetings of today, where we actually give someone the responsibility of being the Ah/Um Counter.

ah um counting

It’s a really difficult habit to break and the only thing that helps is becoming painfully aware of the “um” presence as you speak  – that means speaking slowly, meticulously and intentionally.

Of course, you can always have someone point a finger at you every time you say these useless fillers but ah…..that really gets aggravating.

I’d highly recommend this book – Um..Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean, by Michael Erard.  It might just change the way you talk!


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