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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?

Nordstrom Shakes Up Management

AP Online February 17, 2000 | MICHAEL J. MARTINEZ, AP Business Writer MICHAEL J. MARTINEZ, AP Business Writer AP Online 02-17-2000 Nordstrom Shakes Up Management

SEATTLE (AP) — Nordstrom Inc., faced with a stagnant bottom line and slumping sales, on Thursday demoted or shifted the remaining three Nordstrom family members who had been part of an unsuccessful six-way co-presidency of the clothing store chain.

The reorganization was announced along with lackluster earnings for the fourth quarter, and came a day after Nordstrom launched a flashy new ad campaign and store makeover aimed at shaking its stodgy image.

Nordstrom made $66.5 million in the quarter ended Jan. 31, unchanged from a year ago, despite the opening of seven new stores.

The co-presidency — which involved six members of the Nordstrom family when it was set up in 1995 — was officially dissolved. Nordstrom also realigned its operations into five different business units.

“Over the last year, the co-presidents increasingly acted in an advisory capacity,” said John Whitacre, chairman and chief executive officer. “I believe all executives now have meaningful leadership positions where they can directly and positively impact company results.”

Blake Nordstrom was named president of the Nordstrom Rack unit, which runs 24 discount merchandise stores. Erik and Pete Nordstrom were made executive vice presidents. A fourth Nordstrom, Bill, was made executive vice president and East Coast general manager last year. site nordstrom promotion code

Of the remaining two former co-presidents, Dan Nordstrom is currently president and CEO of Nordstrom.com, the company’s online arm, while Jim Nordstrom retired from the company on Feb. 4 to try his hand at Internet startup companies.

“This isn’t about the title. They really put the business first,” said spokeswoman Brooke White. “Some of the co-presidents actually have a larger volume of responsibilities now than they did before.”

In its financial report, Nordstrom reported fourth-quarter earnings of $66.5 million, or 50 cents per share, on sales of $1.5 billion. Earnings in the year-ago quarter also were $66.5 billion, on sales of $1.4 billion.

Though total earnings for the quarter were flat, earnings per share were up three cents due to fewer outstanding shares now than a year ago. Analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial had estimated Nordstrom’s earnings at 47 cents per share.

Nordstrom’s stock traded at $19.68}, up 12{ cents, at 5:15 p.m. on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has steadily decreased from its 52-week high of $44.81\ in April.

The company on Wednesday unveiled its new advertising and marketing campaign, designed appropriately around the theme of “reinvention.” In print ads, for example, the caption “reinvent soccer mom” is accompanied by a woman wearing a rainbow-colored shirt and red sequined pants. Another ad, entitled “reinvent pajamas,” shows only a strand of pearls. nordstrompromotioncodenow.com nordstrom promotion code

The company will launch its new image in a $40 million nationwide advertising campaign to debut Feb. 21.

Nordstrom is known for large, elegant mall stores where pianists provide the background music, and a well-tailored sales staff that caters to every whim. Although the company is legendary for its service, some have questioned whether the tony image can attract the disposable incomes of teens and young adults.

As part of its makeover, Nordstrom also will revamp parts of its stores, aiming for a more relaxed atmosphere in the areas where its modern lines are sold.

Nordstrom currently has 104 stores in 23 states. The company opened four full line stores in 1999 in Norfolk, Va.; Providence, R.I.; Mission Viejo, Calif.; and Columbia, Md. Three new Nordstrom Rack stores were also opened in Sacramento, Calif.; Brea, Calif.; and Gaithersburg, Md.

In 2000, the company plans to open new Nordstrom stores in Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Sacramento, Chicago and Boca Raton, Fla.

For the year, Nordstrom had profits of $202.6 million or $1.46 a share on sales of $5.1 billion, compared to net earnings of $206.7 million or $1.41 a share on sales of $5 billion a year earlier.

The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

MICHAEL J. MARTINEZ, AP Business Writer

110 Comments

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

    They are called speech disfluencies.

    Reply
  2. LOL -  June 1, 2012 - 10:02 pm

    um… LOL!

    Reply
  3. 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.

    Reply
  4. 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.

    Reply
  5. natalie -  October 30, 2011 - 8:43 pm

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

    Reply
  6. 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.

    Reply
  7. 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.

    Reply
  8. 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.

    Reply
  9. 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.

    Reply
  10. 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.

    Reply
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