Creative Leadership

Ya know, Um, Like, and The End of Civilization

Pet peeve time:  I keep meeting people lately who can’t get a sentence out without inserting “ya know,” “um,” or “like.”  Like, you know, um, I went to the um, mall yesterday, and like, I found ya know, a shirt that I, like, um, tried on, and it was like too big.  Ouch.  And if you bring it up to people they get really, like, um, ya know, defensive.

This even affects people who speak for a living – teachers, pastors, television and radio hosts.  So any ideas out there?  Is there a definitive way to help people overcome this speech problem?  Watch a little MTV, and you’ll start to think the next generation will implode from the inability to communicate.  But many of us old guys have the same problem.  Can somebody help?

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15 Comments

  1. Phil, this is not only limited to speaking, it happens in prayer too. Most of us are probably familiar with this prayer: God, you are so amazing God, and we ask you today Lord Jesus, to be our strength o God, and to watch over us God, to be our help Lord Jesus, to guide us in our walk Lord God…etc.  I think it is a crutch we use (myself included). It helps us to keep talking so we can think without leaving silence in between. We have become uncomfortable with silence. I think it also allows us to talk but not really say anything with clarity and we can hide behind ambiguity.  Some people actually realize this and use it to their benefit (e.g not giving straight answers to questions, just peppering responses with figures of speech and rambling, idle talk). I’m sure throughout your business conversations you hear people use so much business lingo that you really don’t know what people are saying (or even if they are saying anything at all).  "We need to think outside the box" or "we really want to be pro-active on this" have lost all meaning becuase they are over used. I have been able to purge the excess references from my prayer (both public and personal), but I still struggle with the "likes’ and the "and-ums" in my speech.

    I think first there has to be a desire to improve and then an intentional self editing.

    Once one notices this pattern in prayer or in speech, it can become really distracting so beware.

  2. And don’t forget the "Just" prayers….

    I, uh, agree with the, umm, main point.

    Could someone take the press conference from last night and get a "umm" to content ratio?

  3. I was reading A-Rod’s confession interview after I posted and noticed 4-5 "you knows" in just a few sentences. Maybe someone here with a background in journalism can comment on what is obliged to transcribe for print purposes when the interviewee uses the "you-knows" and "likes". How long does someone have to hold out an "uuuuummmm" beofre it becomes a word?

     to osborn4: I can’t imagine Lincoln starting the Gettysburg Address with: "Four-score and umm, seven years ago…".  I have noticed our new presidents use of "umm" quite frequently when speaking off the cuff or answering questions, not so much in his speeches.

  4. Once counted an asst pastor during a 5 minute prayer use the term Father God at least 67 times. (Started counting after 4 times is how I knew.)

    Listening to my 17 year old daughter retell a personal story is excruciating due to the continuous use of "you know" and "like." Especially the latter. "Like, I told her, no way, ain’t gonna happen. Then she says, like, get off my back."

    This is a poor trend with a bleak future. Such sloppy language, if not already, is soon to enter business speak.

  5. I think we have two ears and one mouth for a good reason – probably we need to do twice as much listening (and safely more thinking) before speaking. Today we are in a hurry for everything. Why?

  6. My 10 year old son has "like" disorder.  I think it’s a form of Tourrettes.  (Just kidding!)  The kid has just received normal hearing after a lifetime of difficulty.  We’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude as we’ve heard his speech become increasingly clear.  Then came "like".  Now that he hears what his peers say, he wants to speak exactly like everyone else.  (We should have seen this coming!) 

    Anyway, he’s lucky he’s 10 and has his retired Marine father and home schooling mom to harass him straight.  He’s lucky, because after we’ve outgrown such oversight it’s much harder. 

    A very bright young lady asked me to proof read her letter to our congressman.  My eyebrows practically went through my hairline as I asked her if she truly intended to use "disrespected" as a verb.  "Trust me."  I said.  "The congressman is an ‘old person’ like me!  He won’t be impressed."

    Perhaps every generation goes through this.  Maybe it’s just part of the infamous generation gap. 

    If it’s not our duty to exercise oversight, and we haven’t been asked to help, we probably should grin and bear it.  

    Sometimes humor helps.  My husband used the Canadian "Eh" and the Wisconsin "Don’t ya know" in response to our daughter’s gratuitous "likes".  It made her laugh, and it made his point.  She’s 12 now, and seems to be cured!

  7. Well, an interesting research. Exactly nowadays we are so fast moving that we have even no time to express ourselves fully, Hope these might be the reason of such words. Really if the same situation continues then the time will come when we will not have the time for ourselves.

  8. I was reading A-Rod’s confession interview after I posted and noticed 4-5 "you knows" in just a few sentences. Maybe someone here with a background in journalism can comment on what is obliged to transcribe for print purposes when the interviewee uses the "you-knows" and "likes". How long does someone have to hold out an "uuuuummmm" beofre it becomes a word?

     to osborn4: I can’t imagine Lincoln starting the Gettysburg Address with: "Four-score and umm, seven years ago…".  I have noticed our new presidents use of "umm" quite frequently when speaking off the cuff or answering questions, not so much in his speeches.

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