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Rampant Epidemic

May 1, 2012   
Very recently I learned the term ‘disfluency’. It refers to the ‘crutch’ words we use in our speech when our brain is trying to think of the next word to say. “it’s like, you know, uh, like when you totally don’t know what to say, you know?”  I’ve mentioned before that I recently joined Toastmasters International to dust off my speaking skills.  I have set the goal of becoming a professional speaker in the next five years and get back into delivering stand-up classroom training.

Ever since I joined Toastmasters I have become increasingly aware of the disfluencies in my own conversations and those of other people.  It is a highly contagious bad habit. The worst part about it is that in my case they are ‘false’ or acquired disfluencies because English is my second language. I’m so empathetic that I pick up accents, idioms and crutch words from others faster than a six year old catches the stomach flu the first week of school.  Now it’s on! It has become a pet peeve. The worst part about it is hearing this nasty virus infect the speech of podcasters, radio announcers and professionals delivering business presentations.
 A good example is the typical grammatically incorrect response to a greeting. How are you? We say “good”.  that’s more of a moral statement than a health statement.  However, we’re so conditioned to give that answer that we don’t say “I’m well.”  A simple solution I have found is to insert another word and break our automatic response pattern.  Instead of replying with one word “good”, put a phrase together, such as “I am feeling tired today, how about you?”.  Granted that you don’t want to sound like a condescending grammar nerd, you can try that every once in a  while to break away from automated responses.
As far as the likes, uhms and ahs, retrain your brain to find a variety of better-sounding pause words: such as, or for example, instead of “like”,  a short silence and smile, instead of uhm, aaah…, does this make sense? Instead of ‘you know?’

I therefore invite you, language-conscious readers, to launch a campaign to ‘dislike’ the ‘likes’ -this is probably a symptom of chronic Facebookitis-, hush the ‘ums and ahs’ and stop pretending we’re talking to people who know everything, you know.  Retrain your brain!

Please Like, Share or Tweet, you know? Thanks!