There are, ya know, all sorts of things that, ya know, drive me totally, ya know, crazy. It seems like, ya know, every time I, ya know, listen to sports figures or, ya know, just average people, ya know, talking on TV, it seems like, ya know, they can’t make it, ya know, through a single sentence without, ya know, sprinkling it with at least, ya know, forty or fifty “ya know”s.
And worse still, if it is possible for there to be a worse, is the absolutely infuriating “ya know what I’m sayin’?” Yes, you obnoxious cretin, I know what you’re saying. And nine times out of ten, I don’t care.
Something there is that terrifies us about pauses in speech while we look for the next word we want to say. So we seem driven to plug the gaps with…something. Anything. The time-tested and ever-popular “…uh…” and “…um…” seem to have fallen out of favor in recent times. Perhaps the speaker, has some pathetic (and totally erroneous) hope that by rattling off an endless stream of “ya know”s he—and for some strange reason it is invariably a “he”—is creating some sort of glue to hold the listener’s attention, and to implying a (nonexistent) bond between speaker and listener. But “ya know what I’m sayin’?”, in addition to being incredibly annoying, is also insulting in its implication that the speaker is not sure that you are bright enough to grasp the depth and subtlety of what he’s attempting to convey.
Gap fillers seem, like clothing fashions, to be trendy, and the only thing they all have in common seems to be their “fingernails on the blackboard” quality. They share this annoying tendency with their close relatives, the ubiquitous “catch words of the moment.” In the 40s and 50s, “sez” was quite popular (“So he sez, ‘I don’t like it,’ and I sez, ‘too bad.’). “Like” is still quite popular (“and I’m, like, ‘oh, no you’re not!’, and he’s, like, ‘oh yes I am’”), but I am infinitely relieved that “goes” (“And then he/she goes…and I go…and he/she goes…”) seems to have been fading away. There are a number of lesser fillers, one that seems oddly out of place is “…and that” which some people use not as a gap filler but a sentence ender. (“So I shot him between the eyeballs and waited until the police came…and that.”)
Lord knows I have difficulty speaking in intelligible sentences. That, again, is why I became a writer, so that I could take the time necessary to put my thoughts into a coherent sentence. I don’t always succeed, but I have always found expressing myself through writing much more satisfactory and far less embarrassing than speaking them.
One of the worst things about gap fillers and catch words is that those using them are often totally unaware that they are doing so, and to point it out to them is rather awkward, like telling someone they have bad breath.
I really do try to avoid gap-fillers (even if I have serious problems with linear thought and wander aimlessly from point to point within the same sentence). Still, I’m sure even I may be guilty of, like, an occasional gap filler or catch word. Ya know what I’m sayin’?
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1).