What is it called when you say “um,” “eh,” or “well. . .” Are these considered words?

Have you ever had to listen to a recording of a conversation, or worse, had to transcribe one? You quickly learn that everyday speech isn’t exactly made of flowing repartee. Grunts, coughs, sighs ― they aren’t pleasant to listen back to, but these sounds are probably more common than the words between them.

Remember that face-to-face communication is a different beast than what you are doing now (presumably reading this silently  from a screen.) The gestures, nodding and weird noises you make when talking to another person may not be part of language, but you would have a hard time conveying your ideas without them.

What about “um?” It means something, but what exactly? “Um” is the classic example of what linguistics terms a filler, a sound which signals a pause (rather a conclusion) to the other people involved.

(Here’s a related issue: what does “amen” literally mean, and what function does it serve in prayer? Read our explanation, plus its origin, here.)

Filler can consist of words, such as “like,” or “you know,” frequently combined in the phrase “like, you know . . .” In these instances, the words are essentially meaningless except as conversation cues. A related phenomenon is speech disfluency, when one pauses in mid-sentence to try to recall the rest of the thought. Here’s an example: “Do you believe what Kanye West ― I mean Lady Gaga ― was wearing last night?”  The middle phrase, about Lady Gaga, is speech disfluency.

Is there a difference between cursing, cussing, and swearing? And are these also examples of filler, or something else? We answer that fascinating dilemma, here.

Even though a dictionary may make it seem otherwise, meaning ultimately comes down to what one person expresses to another. Ludwig Wittgenstein once said, “Language is a part of our organism and no less complicated than it.”

A note: Some of our readers have astutely pointed out that paralanguage is another term that describes these utterances. Paralanguage encompasses anything that doesn’t specifically pertain to the linguistic aspect of communication; as we have pointed out above, however, this isn’t always easy to delineate.

We’d like your advice. Is there an aspect of language that mystifies you? What part of jargon, slang, sneezing, or whatever would you like us to explore?


  1. Faye Brown -  October 30, 2016 - 10:02 pm

    What does it mean when a person replies to a comment you made by writing your name only, or by writing your name plus the word “and”?

  2. Ann Archuleta -  May 18, 2016 - 7:41 pm

    Creative piece – I learned a lot from the info ! Does someone know where my business might be able to get access to a template LITHO TOPS Form 3285 copy to type on ?

  3. Sumrah -  October 11, 2015 - 7:39 am

    when you start stammering or speak nonsense if you talk to fast without properly thinking? Is it anyway connected to using anti-depressants, dementia or any other medical rationale?

  4. Jade -  May 4, 2015 - 9:27 am

    “Um,” “er,” and “uh” are called vocalized pauses, which means a pause that occus when a speaker fills the silence between words with vocalization.

    • George Hilbert -  May 10, 2015 - 5:22 pm

      Otherwise known as hemming and hawing.

    • Thewiseone -  December 23, 2014 - 9:15 am

      It’s hesitation. Maybe thinking of how they want to say something so it doesn’t come acoss the wrong way.

  5. offsubject -  August 11, 2014 - 5:28 pm

    It boggles the mind reading these comments about random thought with no connection to the aforementioned. The point is not religious regarding the amen example, or the persons themselves mentioned in the Kanye/Lady GaGa example. It was to induce a thought process that involved naming the verbal pauses. I believe people who use these speech disfluencies/verbal pauses are not unintelligent, obviously everyone here is intelligent enough to know brain function differs per person; these fillers/verbal pauses/disfluencies are a way to help the person gather thoughts. Congratulations to the person who has perfected speech and verbal utterances are not a bother for you, however criticizing others for using these makes you as unintelligent as you assume they are. I’d also hope in the future that interpretation of what you’ve read is another subject people can make intelligent and relevant comments about.

  6. BlogShag -  August 21, 2013 - 3:07 pm

    They are called speech disfluencies.

  7. LOL -  June 1, 2012 - 10:02 pm

    um… LOL!

  8. OnceInABlueMoon -  April 22, 2012 - 12:25 pm

    No offense. It’s not my place to tell you what to say. I just don’t talk like that.

  9. OnceInABlueMoon -  April 22, 2012 - 12:23 pm

    @big j momba: Wow. When someone spells like that I flinch. Not all us “youth” talks like that. At least not in my standards.

  10. natalie -  October 30, 2011 - 8:43 pm

    Can we save articles in a “favorites” tab? (like our “favorite” words)

  11. Jack Sprack -  October 29, 2011 - 4:08 pm

    How is god relevant to an article about filler words? I hate people who start arguing about God this, God that. I don’t hate Christians, but the ones who preach about God or Jesus are annoying.

    • Brock Paris -  March 31, 2016 - 5:01 pm

      When people use the Lord’s name is a Prayer, they use it so many times as a filler word because they don’t know what to say

  12. Sam H. -  October 29, 2011 - 11:29 am

    How about you post an article about how to stop using fillers and “uptalk”? I think that this site should have more articles about speaking intelligently, because these common language mistakes make people look inarticulate and can lose them their jobs or relationships.

  13. E -  October 28, 2011 - 10:58 am

    @AD and @a latin (not latino) guy, most of the words for mother start with m or sound similar because many of the languages that you, AD, named are in the Indo-European language family, including English, Italian, Spanish, French, German, Hindi, Urdu, Portuguese, Albanian, Belarusian, Serbian, Dutch, Greek, Frisian, and Czech.

  14. Elise E. -  October 28, 2011 - 7:52 am

    My dad says amen mean ‘let it be done’.

    Another Christian- The Bible does, in the Old Testament, that swearing is wrong. NEVER swear using God’s name by the way. He doesn’t like it and it could land you in a very SPEACIAL spot in h. e. dubble hocky stick. just saying.

    ethan coates- …or if it says /a/ as in neigbor.

  15. Rebuttal to Name -  October 28, 2011 - 6:44 am

    Name, a question. How many people have you successfully converted to Christianity by shouting barely coherent and strongly opinionated comments with no opportunities for dialogue?

    If the answer is “none”, perhaps you should consider using a more successful technique. Preaching is a method to bring others into the light; if it’s not doing that, all it is doing is acting as arrogant, close-minded postulating, and does NOT honor God.

  16. fuguhugotz -  October 27, 2011 - 6:48 pm

    Actually, that’s what I do for a living (first sentence).

  17. Jacqueline -  October 27, 2011 - 6:06 pm

    This topic is very interesting, it gives insight about people. I find that fasinating.
    I have encountered a person that I cannot figure out. He uses sighing, and kind of rolls his eyes back a lot. Another thing is that If I ask him, what are you thinking about? He will replies nothing. How does a person think about nothing? I believe him because he is not very verbal, does not have opinions. Although he is educated, he seems unable to express himself.

  18. zach's neenee -  April 29, 2011 - 8:32 pm

    God bless you is said upon sneezing because of an early superstitious belief that the soul might escape the body in the sneeze. We have a lot of superstitions and customs that origninated for one or another reason, but through custom continue even though the original usage is obscure.

  19. diet team -  September 20, 2010 - 10:55 pm

    I searched your post via dictionary.com it is very good and informative. Such information is very good for people hungry for meanings and new words.

  20. Saf -  September 16, 2010 - 7:11 am


    So if someone is only able to express themselves inelegantly, their thoughts are worthless and unimportant? Seems rather classist, if you ask me.

  21. lucci -  September 16, 2010 - 2:58 am

    How about why do we say bless you when somebody sneezes?

  22. a student of theology -  September 15, 2010 - 5:13 pm

    swearing is rude and conveys an immaturity of mind, but has no religious connotation.

  23. Besthope -  September 15, 2010 - 4:11 pm

    I just started the school year at a private Catholic school. My history teacher (who is awesome) had a class rule of no profanity while he worked at public high shcools. It is no longer a formal rule at my middle school. He also learned & said that my class is not one of the classes that he has had to worry about swearing. The interesting thing is that we (on average) have higher grade point averages than other classes that he has had at the same grade level. We also pay more attention in class & are nicer. I myself feel that swearing takes time that could be used to convey important, worthwhile thoughts.

  24. Name? Doesn't matter -  September 15, 2010 - 10:53 am

    Thank you rly!!!!!!!!!!!! I wish people could see the way some of us christians see life. We are sent to earth to live for God, tell others about him,then we die and go to heaven where we nolonger will ever be sad again!!!! I mean come on people think about it!!!!! I would love to live in a world where there is no dying,or crying, or anything bad. I can just see it now no one is ever going to be in pain, no one will ever have to say goodbye.And Tiger i understand where you are coming from, but if you really don’t want to hear what “we” religious people have to say then don’t read our comments.Also why do you think it is a rule book for us christians to quote for?I would really like to know the answer. I’m soory if i upset you by doing that, but this is a free country and we christians have the right to preach where ever we want to. There is no law that says we can not is there? No there is not. Also -.- i can also see where you are coming from to people need to be more open minded about things. To me in this world today i feel like people are telling me you can be a christian, act like one, tell people you’re one, but don’t you dear tell people about him or say his name.THAT JUST MAKES ME SO MAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I don’t understand people when i try to tell them about God and they reject him. Yes i respect their answer if they say no thank you but don’t say i am shoving it down your thoats when clearly i’m not.

  25. Tiger -  September 15, 2010 - 7:03 am

    To AD who asked about the similarities in the sounds for ‘mama’. I adopted from China. The nannies at my daughter’s orphanage spoke Mandarin exclusively, so I was surprised that they taught the children the word ‘mama’. After finding out that the word was the same in both of our languages, I asked around for an explanation and was told that ‘ma’ was the easiest sound for babies to form. Now it makes sense.

    On the subject of religion entering the dialogue. I doubt that most, if any, of use would want to insult. The difficulty for me is when Christians quote from the bible as if it is a rule book that is not to be be questioned. There are other places for people with that exact same belief system. Many of the rest of us would prefer not to be preached to.

    This is not a religious thread. If you choose to invoke a god, please consider approaching the subject with the understanding that all of us will not agree that you are quoting from an unquestionable source.

    Tolerance is a two-way street.

  26. Bill Cunningham -  September 15, 2010 - 1:42 am

    One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone says “No problem” instead of “You’re welcome.” How did that get started and why is it used so often by educated people?

    • E. Park -  January 23, 2015 - 11:49 am

      You left a comment long time ago so I’m not sure you can read my reply or not.
      But I wonder….

      First of all, I’m not a native English speaker.
      Could you explain what is wrong with ‘No problem’?
      Cause in my country I’ve learned that ‘no problem’ is a good expression for ‘thank you’. And I also think ‘No problem’ makes sense.
      Or if anyone can expain this please do~ ^_^

      • Kate -  July 24, 2015 - 5:30 am

        I am not born in USA but the problem with “no problem” is that it isn’t really polite and it’s better to say you are welcome

      • New K. -  December 24, 2015 - 11:50 pm

        “No Problem” is used in response to the phrase “Thank You.”

        Saying “No Problem” implies that there might have been a problem.

        A related saying, “No Worries,” implies that I may have been worried.

        The most neutral American English responses might be:

        You’re Welcome

        Replies with positive feeling include:

        My Pleasure

  27. rly?! -  September 14, 2010 - 5:43 pm

    i agree with name. swearing is wrong!!! i mean be a real person and dont swear! plus, i am a christian. it is very unecseptable for swearing and cussing. not for me, for everyone and this has nothin to do with belief!
    cursing is for people who dont know what to say when the get mad. i think its people who ddo it actt DUMMBSTRUCK! so. be a REAL person and dont cuss. cursaing is like drugs, you feed yourself bad stuff. its not right. your not that good of a person if you curse, swear, or cuss. you should try to be peaceful with people and things. its what you do and who you affect that really matters.
    P.S. everyone real man wears PINK!!!

  28. Warren -  September 14, 2010 - 4:47 pm

    Ha! As a professor who had to listen to hundreds of oral reports,I developed a rubric of fillers and took off points for excessive usage. Students were given the rubric to help them prepare their speeches. Among those filler that haven’t been in the comments yet:

    Starting sentences with “Basically,” “Technically,” or “Essentially.” One student used “basically” at the beginning of 26 sentences in a 5 minute speech!

    “And Stuff,” “Like I was saying,” “whatever,” “I learned about,” “Another thing is,” excessive clearing the throat and mumbling sidebar remarks.

    Lastly, preachers interjecting “Praise {the Lord, Jesus, God}” and a certain well-known TV and radio preacher who interjects “Listen!” between every three to four sentences.

  29. kori -  September 14, 2010 - 4:17 pm

    @godsgal, poor is a man whose persona is determined by the words he chooses to use? if this is so, good grief! I am lesser being… Have you ever worked or be part of a diverse group with English as their second (or third language)? Or that considers English not as important as their native tongue? How about being with the unlearned ones or those whose vocabulary is limited or those who can’t help but use “fillers?” And best of all, their grammar… horrible! Have you? I have… and my view of the world changed… No longer do I see my world in a “WORDly” fashion. ♥

  30. jade -  September 14, 2010 - 3:53 pm

    Sometimes people speak better when their first language is not english. We use our language unconsciously, while others must think about the language they use. Just compare Moto GP riders Casey Stoner to European riders – I feel sorry for the Europeans who must translate those nonsense filler words.

  31. Um -  September 14, 2010 - 3:47 pm


  32. Um -  September 14, 2010 - 3:47 pm

    Hello. I am 79 years old. Thought you might want to know that I have never used, heard, or read the word “um” before.

  33. Bella -  September 14, 2010 - 3:33 pm


    is that a filler?

  34. ikickpillows -  September 14, 2010 - 1:46 pm

    oh my gosh my art teacher uses filler all the time but instead of saying um or like like a normal person she says DOES THAT MAKE SENSE?! after everythinggg. so annoying.

  35. mercedesdude -  September 14, 2010 - 1:28 pm

    My teacher doesn’t like um. If we have a question and we say um, he skips us. It’s kinda annoying.

  36. HaZy -  September 14, 2010 - 1:08 pm

    One of my greatest pet peeves is the use of phrases that have been jumbled over the years to say the opposite of what one intends. For example, “I could care less” implies that the speaker really could care less, whereas what he is trying to say is that he could not. Double negatives are annoying, but instead of being frustrated by them, I enjoy unraveling them. I also dislike disclaimer statements such as “I don’t mean to be rude, but…”, “Don’t take offense, but…”, and “I’m just saying.” These statements all prepare one’s ears to be assaulted by the exact things they claim against. I have seen people use “I’m just saying” to justify statements that have no proof, cross boundaries politeness does not allow, or vent at someone that has no place being vented at.

  37. -.- -  September 14, 2010 - 12:54 pm

    no offense, but i think that we shouldn’t be so harsh to other religions… im Christian too, and im just asking where’s the respect? we’re all just shoving things down each others throats…. try to be more open minded! sorry if i offensed anyone… have a nice day!! :D

  38. JHS -  September 14, 2010 - 12:33 pm

    Ok,I didn’t read all the comments, but I read enough to marvel at how many people missed the point. I thought the subject was words…fillers and otherwise. I would like to talk about the lazy people…you know, those who consider the word “awesome” the only word to describe anything good, wonderful or just plain great. Why is this word so popular? There are many “superlatives” in our language, “awesome” being just one. Have they ever heard these words…fantastic, spectacular,terrific,stunning,beautiful, breathtaking,amazing, astonishing…the list goes on and on and on. Just try using these words..use your vocabulary people.

  39. Xena -  September 14, 2010 - 12:28 pm

    Fillers are also called “discourse particles”.

  40. Moses Ma -  September 14, 2010 - 12:14 pm

    Great article! Fillers go both ways – they’re used by both the speaker and the listener – for the listener, those grunts are called “phatics”. In linguistics, a phatic expression is one whose only function is to perform a social task, as opposed to conveying information. The term was coined by anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski in the early 1900s.

    Thus people are like computers communicating. “Um” and “like” are signals for “don’t interrupt me until this thought packet is complete” – and “uh huh” and nods are signals for “clear to send”.

  41. Waldo Pepper -  September 14, 2010 - 12:08 pm

    Argh. Why does someone always have to bring the bible into the comments sections of these? Stop it!

    • Mary Alice -  August 15, 2014 - 8:49 pm

      A hearty, “Amen”, to that.

  42. LT -  September 14, 2010 - 11:55 am

    And so on…

  43. Proser132 -  September 14, 2010 - 11:53 am

    It’s been said, but I must applaud you all on adding religion to a blog on fillers. How quaint.
    To all the people who tried to bring this conversation back — thank you.
    To the people who did not — there are forums for you.
    And my part of speech question: How can emphasis change the meaning of words?

  44. KristinJoyBAiNTER -  September 14, 2010 - 10:49 am

    There is simple not enough time.

    Do not put a phrase or word into quotations, unless it is a quote.

    Read a book. Also, in the previous statement; ‘you’ is implied.

    Do we teach grammar?

    I am indefinitely confused!

    God Bless,

    • Mary Alice -  August 15, 2014 - 8:51 pm

      And edit, edit, edit before clicking on the submit button….:-)

  45. godsgal -  September 14, 2010 - 10:16 am

    Someone once said that a mind is a terrible thing to waste. One of my biggest pet peeves that I have a major issue with is, “…ain’t got none”. It’s a double negative, so therefore, by definition, you DO have SOME. Maybe it’s a Southern thing – I wouldn’t know, I’m European – but I’m anal when it comes to grammar. To me, the words a person chooses to use tells me a lot about them. It’s not a judgment thing, it’s just a thang. Insight into a person and their values, prioroties, and friends.
    Just saying…

  46. cass -  September 14, 2010 - 10:12 am

    Right on, Ben! I’ve often wondered the same….that ANY subject can be twisted by these fanatics to get their message out. What they don’t realize is that they are simply making enemies for their form of religion, whatever it is.
    I’m curious, too, about where they get the time to write all their mumbo-jumbo. Couldn’t they use their time to do some better things, such as:
    1. teach an immigrant English
    2. interact with their own wives/husbands and children
    3. clean up their houses (there are some filthy places out there, often inhabited by people with “messages”
    4. clean up their immediate surroundings: front yards, roads, parks, river-beds. Some good physical activity…always good for clearing out the mumbo-jumbo cobwebs from the mind.
    Back to this interesting conversation on fillers in language.

  47. Jeanne Zaragoza -  September 14, 2010 - 10:07 am

    @ Sir please: “please” and “thank you” are verbs, are they not? “Please” is short for “If you please” or “If it pleases you” and “thank you” is short for “I thank you.”

  48. p3pp3r93 -  September 14, 2010 - 9:17 am

    “Remember that face-to-face communication is a different beast THAN what you are doing now (presumably reading this silently from a screen.)”

    One of my pet peeves is the misuse of the words from and than.

    The following can be found on the web page: http://www.drgrammar.org/faqs/#62

    You will have to scroll down to find it. This is what I found:

    Different From or Different Than?
    “Different from is preferred to different than. I remember this by remembering that different has two f’s and only one t, so the best choice between than and from is the one that starts with an f” (Fogarty, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips 22).

    The person who wrote this Quick and Dirty Tip remembering the f’s in different helps him to chose the word from.

    When I was in third grade the teacher said, “It is always different from—. and taller than—->

    “Different than” to my ears is like fingernails on a slate blackoard. It makes me shiver. You can hear “different than” all day long on TV and in live conservations.

  49. pstum -  September 14, 2010 - 8:44 am

    From this perspective, spoken filler words are no more than mental pauses – to regroup one’s thoughts.

  50. Dennis -  September 14, 2010 - 8:13 am

    I usually use the phrase, “I’m just saying,” when I believe the person is having a difficult time understanding my point of view. However, even when I think I have made my point perfectly clearly, I will still say, “I’m just saying, do you get what I’m saying?” which usually confuses the person more. Oh well, perhaps, I need to increasing my vocabulary.

  51. uhhhhhh -  September 14, 2010 - 8:07 am

    Poor examples…who is Lady Gaga or Kanye West? Who cares?? Or Justin Bieber? I don’t listen to this crap. Anyway, these expressions are very much used by Beavis and Butthead. lol. However, back to the point…these are not words, but yes, fillers. And they’re hard to get rid of, but the goal should be to eliminate them from speech if possible (hear me, Obama? lol)

  52. notta -  September 14, 2010 - 8:00 am

    aka a verbal pause.

  53. Gabriel -  September 14, 2010 - 7:58 am

    @A student of theology
    Do you even know what god’s name is?

  54. Name? Doesn't matter -  September 14, 2010 - 7:30 am

    I’m sorry on the first comment i left the or in for out thats why i posted it again.

  55. abc -  September 14, 2010 - 7:12 am

    give me some more insight about not-everyday scientific communication like one telepathic without psychoanalytic case explanation.

    I really really want to know that.

  56. Ari -  September 14, 2010 - 6:43 am

    @AD – In answer to your query concerning why the majority of words for ‘mother’ in different languages starts with an ‘m’ (the same for ‘dad’ with a ‘d’)–I believe that the consonants ‘m’ and ‘d’ are the first that a baby says. When the infant says ‘mama’ and ‘dada’, those are the first sounds that it can make–parents have simply adopted these sounds and taken them as their name. I hope that makes sense!

  57. back to the topic -  September 14, 2010 - 5:50 am

    What would lead a dictionary site to cite a definition from Wikipedia? Please tell the SEO writers to make an effort to find a disinterested authority.

    Now, let’s debate whether “proselytization” should be spelled with a z…

  58. Nikki -  September 14, 2010 - 4:02 am

    @Nathan, @Name? Doesn’t Matter! and many others, please think about the atheists and ones who don’t talk about Christianity. I am a Christian but we also need to respect other religions.

    @I Agree, wouldn’t that be sarcastically embarrassing? And you’d probably forget one day…

    Even so, @AD, would it really be necessary for you to include “Mother” in different languages? To think that it is highly irrelevant!

    Lastly, more irrelevance… @Nicole, the answer to your question is yes and is because your eye fills with bacteria and sputum. But really, why must you include this irrelevant question in a blog post about “um”? (And this leads to asking why it is necessary to raise points about the Bible.)

    As normal, I’m only raising some useful points of my opinion.

  59. a Latin (not latino) guy -  September 14, 2010 - 4:01 am

    @AD I can explain easily that the “Romance” Languages all derived their words from mom or mother from the latin word “mater, matris, f” i can also assume that the German merely adopted this word as well, even if they had their own seperate language, similarily to Kaiser, originating from the latin “Caeser”. This is probably true with a few other of the languages you have listed there. I also know Latin didnt just come out of the blue it has a chain of other ancient Indo-European languages as well that have evolved into many modern langauges today. However that still leaves a few outliers such as Hawaiian, Ilongo, Indonesian, etc. which are not Indo-European that i am just going to say is merely a coincidence

  60. Nobody -  September 14, 2010 - 2:49 am

    You guys must have absolutely no lives if you can debate about this for nearly 9 hours.

  61. Violet -  September 14, 2010 - 2:25 am

    Interesting little discussion. Funny how the swearing question brought out such strong opinions.
    (I’ve always been a bit divided on that myself. Using designated profanities does kind of interfere with any images of dignity and self-control we were trying to convey, but sometimes it’s hard not to blurt out something unpleasant when you drop something on your toe. At times I’ll even accidentally say “Oh, God!”, which bothers me as I’m religious myself. In those cases I usually try to rationalize it inwardly, even to the point of continuing the sentence with something like “please help me handle this!” Really, no one wants to insult their own F/friends to their faces.
    I might also propose that there are multiple classes of “dirty” language, in that there’s a difference in meaning between, “Well, *bleep*! How did that happen?!” and “Then that *bleep* and I *bleep*ed each other’s *bleep* until *bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep* and we got kicked out!” Or perhaps the distinction is less clear in some communities…?
    I also have to agree strongly with the idea that the sort of language forbidden in Christianity is not just a few isolated terms, but rather the more overlooked but quite common practice of using a mundane vocabulary to tear apart our Neighbors’ souls.)

    Gosh, now I’m rambling too.
    Now, as for a thing to wonder about…hmm…why are filler words often considered undesirable to include in spoken communication? If they make us look less intelligent, why is that?

  62. Faith -  September 13, 2010 - 10:33 pm

    @pssssstium or whatever the HECK (notice I didn’t use the other word because I’m a GOOD PERSON) your freaky name is, it’s “preposturous” for you to be so harsh to people. Name was just stating their opinion, not telling you what to do! Maybe they were just saying something like “Don’t vote Obama for president” where she doesn’t mean it as a command but something to say that’s in her opinion!!! DONT BE SO RUDE!!!! Obviously if you don’t honor other people’s religions and beliefs then you will never get anywhere in life :D

  63. MkMiku -  September 13, 2010 - 10:02 pm

    Words like that are getting more common these days. People don’t really think about it that much anymore. It’s becoming a natural part of our linguistics. Just imagine what our language will look like 10 years from now.

  64. sandrene vicente -  September 13, 2010 - 9:56 pm

    using these fillers won’t get you nowhere! specially if you’re for a call center interview!! hahahahha

  65. Aloysius -  September 13, 2010 - 7:25 pm

    A lot of you are not differentiating between whther or not cussing is a sin or just impolite.

    It is rude yes, but it is not a sin.

    Nowhere in the bible does it explicitly say that you are not allowed to cuss.

    The only circumstance under which it would be a sin is if you harmed another person with your language.

    Otherwise it is only rude

  66. A difference -  September 13, 2010 - 7:21 pm

    Cursing and cussing are not the same thing.

    Cussing is using rude or impolite language.

    Cursing is calling God to cause harm as in God dang it.

    Cursing is a sin, cussing is not.

  67. Anonymous -  September 13, 2010 - 7:14 pm

    Because the point of this blog was TOTALLY about the morality of swearing.

  68. A student of theology -  September 13, 2010 - 6:53 pm

    @I’m just sayin: I think the most common translations all say “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain” That is “take it for the sake of vanity”, as in when someone says “I am God” or “I speak for God” when it’s just a dude trying to gain power over a group of people.

    I apologize for calling you out like this, but your interpretation of this commandment is wrong compared to how I have been taught.

    It is my belief that this commandment was created to make people show respect to God’s name and through the name, show respect to God.

    It is supposed to protect against people using the Lord’s name as an interjection.

    For example, “Oh my God, it is hot out here.”

    This does not show much respect to God.

    This is much more common than people wielding the authority of God unjustly.

  69. Clarence -  September 13, 2010 - 6:38 pm

    im with you name doesnt matter like you said you can talk about me or whatever but im going tell what i beleive and what the bible says.
    Oh yeah and im not ashamed to show my name.

  70. ethan coates -  September 13, 2010 - 6:15 pm

    i think that was um…. very interesting. hahahaha. bit really i dont understand why my 1at grS Teacher always said, ” i before e exept after c.” and thats not the case in half the situation

  71. Nathan -  September 13, 2010 - 5:55 pm

    @No comment: Those are appositives, words we put in place of other nouns.

    @Ben: Hot Word’s attempt to segue to a half-way related topic brought up swearing. Then someone commented on it, assuming that Hot Word intended to imply it was filler too. Then, all heck broke loose… :-)

  72. comment man -  September 13, 2010 - 5:46 pm

    I had never really thought about the significance of “meaningless” words like “um”. They really can, used correctly, add and convey tone or emotion to a conversation.

    Regarding cussing, I am a Christian, but I personally have no problem with using curse words moderately. You know what I mean; using them as any other word to convey feeling or for comic effect, but, like any other word, over-use is annoying. I, however, try very hard not to use the Lord’s name in vain out of respect. The only thing that bothers me is when people use God’s name in vain. Naturally, though, I’m not going to strangle you or anything if you do.

    Also, I find it rather humorous, but sad, how many Christians view cussing. I mean, they treat the use of those words currently unacceptable in society as a terrible offense, yet self-righteously condemn that person with their own words. You tell me which is worse?

  73. Ben -  September 13, 2010 - 5:26 pm

    How on earth do you people manage to bring religion into an article about word filler?

    Anyway, an intriguing read.

  74. Nicole -  September 13, 2010 - 5:26 pm

    Is it true that one cannot keep his eyes open while he is sneezing? One of my science teachers told me that if someone managed to do that, his eye would burst.

  75. not important -  September 13, 2010 - 5:11 pm

    Swearing is definitely off the chart. I mean, come on. People look at you with so much more respect when your language is COMPLETELY CLEAN. And that includes keeping out the “substitutes”. Like, “Oh my gosh”, or “heck”, “shoot”, “freak/freaking”,… I think we all get the idea.

  76. No comment -  September 13, 2010 - 4:21 pm

    Wait, what would you classify words like whatchamacallit and whats-his-face?
    @big j momba
    Learn to spell, you freako. I’m one of these so-called “youth” and I don’t speak like that and would laugh at anyone who did. You must get terrible grades in school…

  77. pstum -  September 13, 2010 - 4:04 pm

    @Faith: Your extrapolation is preposterous. My statement was to say: for each his (her) own. If @Name doesn’t want to swear in public or private – that’s great. However, if I choose to use words considered swearing, then that is my right. Certainly I concur that swearing in public is distasteful and impolite. However, it is not my place to tell others what they can or cannot do. Nor is it @Name’s place to make such a pronouncement.

  78. I Agree -  September 13, 2010 - 3:56 pm


    Thank you! Now, wherever I go, I will hold up a sign saying “Colossians 3:8″ whenever someone swears! Hee hee

  79. Nathan -  September 13, 2010 - 3:52 pm

    @Pterocies: Thanks!

    @Clean: Thanks! –Although, I’m Jewish so Collossians doesn’t count in my book :-) Does it list what words are considered “filthy”–I mean I’d consider “dirt” filthy and insulting language that demoralizes human beings as filthy? But that may not be true for the pundits who argue the Bible’s meaning.

    @I’m just sayin: I think the most common translations all say “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain” That is “take it for the sake of vanity”, as in when someone says “I am God” or “I speak for God” when it’s just a dude trying to gain power over a group of people.

  80. Pterocles -  September 13, 2010 - 3:10 pm

    The French way of saying ‘please’ is <> which translates directly to “If it pleases you,” so I would be willing to bet that ‘please’ is closer to “If it pleases you…” than to “It would please me if you…” :D

  81. Faith -  September 13, 2010 - 2:50 pm

    @pstum So you are saying that everyone in the world should just swear if they feel like cuz goddangit it doesn’t matter? Not even to kids? And it’s POLITE to swear? Is THAT what you are saying?!

  82. Another christian -  September 13, 2010 - 2:46 pm

    I am a Christian too and you do not need to bang them on the head with our Christian Bible. Jesus preached but did not force people to become Christians. He respected their deceisions.

  83. Another Christian -  September 13, 2010 - 2:43 pm

    I may have misdirected my last comment, but I think it applies to everybody. I apologize if I did.

  84. mark V -  September 13, 2010 - 2:39 pm


    I would not suggest doing this as it is one of those things that once you see, cannot be unseen.

  85. Another Christian -  September 13, 2010 - 2:29 pm

    @Nathan- I see you are asking where in the Bible it says not to swear/cuss/whatever you say.The Bible never explicitly says “Don’t swear,” but it does say not to use unwholesome language (sorry if that’s misspelled. I’ve never used that word before). Unwholesome language, at least in my interpretation, includes words that can tear down a person, and other words that aren’t uplifting or edifying to another person’s faith. For some people, small things can take them away from their faith. For some, alcohol, some swearing, and some even other people who aren’t Christians. Paul also writes (don’t ask me where. I don’t do scripture references very well. I don’t think that knowing that is necessary, although I do read my Bible) that we are not to do anything that can cause your brother to stumble. I’m not saying that Christians can’t associate with non-Christians, drink alcohol, nor swear, but if you are doing such things around people who this could cause to stumble in their faith, then yes, it is a sin.

  86. myself and i -  September 13, 2010 - 2:14 pm

    um, well, er, etc. can definitely used. we already have words that “break the rules” for example, the word weird. always “i before e” but weird doesn’t apply. but that doesn’t mean “weird” isn’t a word! i guess um, er, well, etc. break the “rules”! all i wanted to say :)

  87. sinbad -  September 13, 2010 - 1:40 pm

    If you listen to people being interviewed and what not on TV, and you focus on the “filler” words, it almost becomes funny. It makes the speaker sound so dumb saying “uh”, with his mouth open, a couple of times per sentence.

  88. Onion -  September 13, 2010 - 1:33 pm

    …and there I go again with “wrods”

  89. Onion -  September 13, 2010 - 1:32 pm

    …and lightly choking on my wrods I correct my post as it should read “completely” and not “completly”

  90. Clean -  September 13, 2010 - 1:32 pm

    Swearing is wrong. Read Colossians 3:8. “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips” (NIV) So yes, the Bible says do not swear.

  91. Onion -  September 13, 2010 - 1:30 pm

    @big j momba – It is “beastly” “embarising” when someone who represents us “youth” does not know the difference between “then” and “than,” and completly butchers the word “embarrassing.” So let’s just say that it would be perfectly AWESOME if every one of us under 30 would learn how to spell correctly.

  92. myboysmom -  September 13, 2010 - 1:23 pm

    beyond sick becomes shoe. yeah. im jus sayin. got my own way of talkin.

    also, – cussing vs cursing – cussing is using prfanities, cursing is wishing ill upon someone – which is bad juju.

  93. camcam aka wazzup pplz -  September 13, 2010 - 1:08 pm

    @ Big J
    i think that is just the way 21st century ‘youth’ talk….

  94. camcam aka wazzup pplz -  September 13, 2010 - 1:04 pm

    ((tagolog particularly…))

  95. camcam aka wazzup pplz -  September 13, 2010 - 1:01 pm

    @ AD nanay is Filipino for ‘mother’.

  96. I'm just sayin' -  September 13, 2010 - 12:47 pm

    Isn’t it,according to the Bible, technically worse if for example an old lady is startled and exclaims ‘Oh My God!’, than if a teenager is to say some swear word?
    I mean, isn’t is written as one of the commandments even that you shall not abuse your Lords name? (not abuse;as in not utter unless in prayer)
    Whilst there is nothing whatsoever about any other specificly ‘bad’ words that you’re not supposed to say?

  97. Alvin Salyers -  September 13, 2010 - 12:46 pm

    I know a person that has language in what she calls three voices first voice, second voice and very low voicing or third voice. She says the out loud conversational tone is first voice such as making the statement “I like your new suit”,

    Then while you are answering the first voice statement or trying to answer and not as part of the conversation but more as a narrative in a lower voice she would say “I like you.” This statement is recognized by both of you in the conversation but is not a part of the direct first voice conversation. This is a non direct conversation which according to her you do not have to own up to saying. It is rude to ask someone to own up to such narrative statements.

    Then the third voice is a even lower possibly below direct recognization (tongue in cheek she defines) she would say “You can ask me out.” It is a command language or suggestive language that you should never admit to having said.

    Actually two independent conversations can be expressed at the same time with these techniques and was used in the underground railroads such as with the Jews out of Hitler controlled areas.

    What language do you call this or what language style. (I would consider calling it inflammers) It includes fillers which inflame a speaker such as low voiced “amen” during the first voice sermon of a preacher. The same technique is used to inflame a would be prostitute’s next trick or inflame an alcoholic to drink.

  98. big j momba -  September 13, 2010 - 12:29 pm

    Yo sick blurhh guy. Sick is a phrase used by us “youth” to say that it is passed awsome. Above awsome there is sick and then beast. it is just used to exagerate it further. if your over 30 than dont use it though cause than its just embarising.

  99. Joe -  September 13, 2010 - 12:19 pm

    On swearing – Nietzsche has just as much authority as the Bible in this regard. Neither dictate value specifically, but both propose sets of moral distinction. To say swearing is “wrong” is simply an expression of your moral perspective. For someone who accepts swearing as part of our linguistic makeup, to not swear might be quite wrong. Either way, it’s a much more complicated discussion that simple “right and wrong.”

    @AD – I find it interesting that you’ve tried to reduce your use of “filler” words/phrases. Are you doing this in all forms of speech? Only in professional speech? With your friends? I’ve always thought it important to have a solid grasp of which linguistic switches one should turn on or off in certain situations, but I’ve never felt it necessary to eliminate certain pieces altogether. In many social circles, “filler” is completely acceptable, and sometimes so very much part of the vernacular that not using them might seem odd.

    On what “mystifies” me – how about those sort of bumbly linguistic exchanges we run into from time to time, where an idea is communicated but nothing is really said. I might not have the best example, but I always think of my experience serving tables, when perhaps I’d come back to ask if folks wanted refills on their drinks – I start asking, but before I finish what I’m saying, they’ve already waved off my offer in some way, and I just mumble some kind of “OK.” I guess it has something to do with common and shared understandings to a degree that complete thoughts need not be versed to get across what needs to be expressed.

  100. Ryan -  September 13, 2010 - 12:15 pm

    @ Name? It doesn’t matter:

    “Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone.”

    If you break down this famous quote, it comes down to individuals wrongly judging others.

    Saying everyone “should” do something is begging the question of religious belief, AND is basically explaining that you have the authority to judge others, when you do not.

  101. sick blurghh -  September 13, 2010 - 12:01 pm

    what does sick mean?
    ugh thats sick!! as in disgusting
    that is soo sick dude!! as in awesome??

  102. Logophilius -  September 13, 2010 - 11:59 am

    I don’t have a great grasp on a great many languages, but in the ones I have dipped into, I’ve noticed that the verb for “to be” is always an irregular verb. Is “to be” a “regular” verb with a “regular” conjugation in any language? I’d love to see some information on why what is presumably the most commonly used verb in any language is never (?) a regular verb. (I’m guessing its commonness and irregularity are linked.)

  103. Joy Corcoran -  September 13, 2010 - 11:49 am

    It would be interesting for you to do a post on how speech impediments, stuttering, Torette’s syndrome and other quirks add to dialogue. I think most of these ums, uhs and you knows add a musical, personal quality to people’s speech, gives them a distinct rhythm. It’s interesting that so many teenagers speak with the same rhythms and slang and “whatever,” and each generation slightly changes its speech pattern. Language is a a constantly changing art.

  104. Jason Smith -  September 13, 2010 - 11:41 am

    My question is can words like “ummm”, “like” can they be considered transitional phrase?

  105. Stéphane -  September 13, 2010 - 11:31 am

    when it comes to speech functions, Austin’s works are very insightful. I find they provide a broader answer than this article which focuses on a single case, and explores what language is (and therefore both what is not language and what is not stricto sensu contained in language, all of which could be called paralanguage in a very broad understanding of it). Just some thoughts for those who would like to go further!

  106. Nathan -  September 13, 2010 - 11:15 am

    Swearing is part of Adam’s task: naming all the things one experiences on Earth. I’m not saying that there isn’t a time when it’s inappropriate, but one can’t overdo it so that one loses the power his words can carry. But words have meaning; Words have Power.

    @LT: I appreciate your rhymes, but sometimes they don’t make sense. Perhaps a back beat and a drum kit would make less offense? :-)

  107. pstum -  September 13, 2010 - 11:06 am

    @Name: Okay, so swearing is not and acceptable practice for you. So why do you have to shove your standards down the throat of others?

  108. UMUMUMUMUMUM | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  September 13, 2010 - 11:00 am

    [...] “UMUMUMUMUM…” is what Paul uttered — to buy himself some time — On the other hand when we stuttered — we jumped and spit and sputtered — consonants that didn’t rhyme. — One NUN thought we were faking then tried to stick us in a special school. — We eventually got over most of it because of LSD and a bar stool. — Public speaking is difficult as is conversational English. — We speak a little louder and with our hands mayhap because we’re Polish. — Ain’t seen Paul in forty some odd years. — Perhaps the UM has turned to OM. — Humor helped and a few more beers. — Now we leave the alcohol and smoking stuff alone. — Nor psychedelics we no longer do. — Maybe Mushroom Tea would bring us home. — Grunts and coughs and sighs Orwell — what is called your Hot Word filler, — Ya know. — Seems to have been overcome by some by talking fast and faster — do tell — That too is a real Buzz Killer. –>>Rupert L.T.Rhyme [...]

  109. Peggy -  September 13, 2010 - 11:00 am

    Swearing is the sign of a weak mind trying to assert itself forcefully.
    Amen means “so be it” or “I agree”

  110. Nathan -  September 13, 2010 - 10:50 am

    @Name: Where, again, in the Bible does it say not to swear? And which words are considered by God to be swear words?

  111. A christian -  September 13, 2010 - 10:50 am

    Name?Doesn’t matter. I am the same way i will say “i mean just sayin” I think it is very odd that we say these things at times when we stop to think about what we are truely trying to say. Anyway may God bless you all!!!!!!!!!! For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him shall not suffer but have everlasting life!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (John 3:16)

  112. AD -  September 13, 2010 - 10:33 am

    I would like to add few more words and phrases to the filler vocabulary – actually, really, “I mean”. I noticed myself using these a lot and have tried to make a conscious effort to reduce their usage.

    One of the mysteries that I would like to explore is the commonality among languages when it comes to words we use to describe our closest family members. For instance, here is a sample of how the word Mother is said in different languages

    Why do most begin with “m”? Similar themes are found for dad and grandparents.

    English – Mom, Mommy, Mother
    Italian – mamma
    Spanish – mama
    rench – Mere
    German – Mutter
    Hindi – Ma
    Urdu – Ammee
    Italian – Madre
    Portuguese – Mãe
    Albanian – Mëmë; Nënë; Burim; Kryemurgeshë
    Belarusan – Matka
    Cebuano – Inahan; Nanay
    Serbian – Majka
    Czech – Abatyse
    Dutch – Moeder; Moer
    Estonian – Ema
    Frisian – Emo, Emä, Kantaäiti, Äiti
    Greek – Màna
    Hawaiian – Makuahine
    Hungarian – Anya, Fu
    Ilongo – Iloy; Nanay; Nay
    Indonesian – Induk, Ibu, Biang, Nyokap

  113. Name? Doesn't matter -  September 13, 2010 - 10:31 am

    I’m just sayin is what i always say when i’m talking to my closest friends. I don’t know why i do that it’s just when i say something like if i was that person i wouldn’t of made that choice i mean i’m just sayin. And swearing is wrong! I don’t think people should say them. Read your Bible people!!!!!!!!!! And yes call me what you want, but i am a christian and i don’t care what you say swearing is wrong and we shouldn’t talk like that.

  114. Nathan -  September 13, 2010 - 10:31 am

    I thought linguistics called those fillers: paralanguage.

    And @Sir please: Thank you is a sentence with an implied “I” at the beginning. Thank is the action, you is the direct object.

    Please is probably a filler in modern grammar, but it is derived from the idea of “It would please me if you…” Again, please is the verb with an implied statement of who it pleases. Grammatically, like in a sentence diagram, I think it acts as a modifer to the verb, but it has been a while since I diagrammed a sentence.

  115. Sir please -  September 13, 2010 - 10:22 am

    What about politeness? Saying please and thank you? I never really thought those are words like saying orange or basketball is one. They aren’t nouns or commands.


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