7.27.2008

please, i beg you: retire this expression

Can we declare a moratorium on the use of the words "um" or "uh" in mid-sentence to denote irony, sarcasm or the writer's supposed delicate search for the correct word?

It was cute when it started, lo those many years past. I'm sure I've used it myself, and I probably thought it was cute at the time, too. But now it is just another over-used cliche, devoid of meaning, carrying no humour or any element of surprise.

To those of you who enjoy using said "uh" and "um" in this manner: a suggestion. Consider writing those words as you always do, then going back and editing the sentence to more accurately reflect your meaning without that qualifier. Example:

I would offer my opinion, but Laura might, uh, object.

can become

I would offer my opinion, but Laura would bite my head off.

Why not just say what you mean? What would you have written before "um" and "uh" were used this way? Write that!

If this post irritates you, you should see what I've got saved in drafts! Should I unleash the wmtc grammar and spelling class? (I think not. That's why it's in drafts.)

Previous expressions I have begged for retirement are found here.

Now cue all the comments using "uh" and "um" this way, all you readers who are so, um, clever!

39 comments:

redsock said...

What would you have written before "um" and "uh" were used this way?

The previous over-used, totally unfunny internet expression?

Having said that, uh, I agree. LOL!!11!1!!

L-girl said...

How ironic. I literally fell down laughing when I read this.

And again, this is funny.

redsock said...

And again, this is funny.

Thanks. I'm proud of how I structured the ... oh wait.

impudent strumpet said...

Um, not gonna happen, sorry.

redsock said...

kthxbye!

Sarah O. said...

I'm with you, and then I'm not, and then I am again. Yes, it's over-used. I'd been trying to cut down on my use of "uh, um," and "er" as well as my "*sigh*"s before this post. However, I'm not as irritated as you are, because I see it as an attempt to bring a conversational tone to emails and blog comments, and generally when I understand motivations I'm a bit more tolerant.

Then again, there are many people (fogies, cranks, fun-sucking grammar sticklers, nostalgic letter writers) who would say this "conversational" style is merely the 20+ version of text-speak. I can see that too.

Gee, I feel so chastened. What's next, L-girl? "Argh!"? "Gah!"? "Meinh!"???? Don't you be taking my asterisks away!

L-girl said...

What's next

Did you use this on purpose? Here's one example where I can't tell.

Most blogs would continue to have a conversational tone without any ums or uhs. If the blogger writes in a conversational style, it's going to come through.

Signed,

A grammar stickler and letter writer.

I won't cop to being a crank, and I'm not nostalgic. Just sick of those damn uhs and ums!

redsock said...

So I was like Laura why did you post this? And she goes read it again and you'll see. And I was all like alright. So I read it again. Meh.

redsock said...

Signed,

___________


This is overused as well.

Just sayin'.

L-girl said...

Signed,

___________

This is overused as well.


Is it? Does it matter that I've been using it all my life?

(You may recall NN and I saying "Love always..."? Same thing.)

Just sayin'.

Argh.

Sarah O. said...

Sorry, I think my second and third paragraphs are unintentionally accusatory. I edited my comment for length (I'm wordy) and not clarity. Perhaps I should have cut it down even further. In my mind, I wasn't including you in any of those categories. I enjoy proper grammer myself, and you can count me among those ridiculous laydeez who swoon over Captain Wentworth's letter in Persuasion.

My definition of "conversational," was "reads in the head as if it was spoken out loud," where the "uh" or "um" is like a direction in a play, e.g. "hesitatingly." And yes, that last paragraph was in jest.

I think there are times for more "proper" forms of written communication, and times when ubiquitous phrases and syllables are perfectly suitable. Out of courtesy, I will henceforth consider your blog an um-free zone, but that's not to say I won't use it elsewhere.

:) <--- smiley

L-girl said...

Sorry, I think my second and third paragraphs are unintentionally accusatory.

Nah. It's cool.

And yes, that last paragraph was in jest.

I'm sure I was the only one to not be sure of that.

Out of courtesy, I will henceforth consider your blog an um-free zone

It's a start!

:>) <---- smiley with a nose

redsock said...

I enjoy proper grammer myself

!!!

Sarah O. said...

!!!

Nice.

L-girl said...

!!!

Nice.


Your to funny.

impudent strumpet said...

Seriously though, it does have a function. It does provide a nuance that wouldn't be there if you rephrased (as do the quotative like and go and most of the other things that have been mentioned in this thread.) I just can't immediately articulate in a text medium exactly what its function is. Give me a couple days though, this might resolve itself into an epic blog post.

L-girl said...

Seriously though, it does have a function.

It absolutely does.

I would prefer to see the same function accomplished with actual words, not with interjections that are supposed to mimic spoken language.

Before this cliche came into vogue, we were not at a loss for how to express ourselves. I don't think the use of "um" or "uh" in written language makes us any more expressive or precise than it does in spoken language.

I look forward to your post!

Kim_in_TO said...

So I was like Laura why did you post this? And she goes read it again and you'll see. And I was all like alright. So I read it again. Meh.

I love this, except you made the mistake of including punctuation.

Scott M. said...

Um... I don't know how to tell you this, but... uh... nah. Forget it.

impudent strumpet said...

I would prefer to see the same function accomplished with actual words, not with interjections that are supposed to mimic spoken language.

So when you're writing here, like in shorter posts and in comments, you're not writing how you talk?

except you made the mistake of including punctuation.

Actually, I would have commaed it heavily. Added more likes.

So I was like, Laura, why did you post this? And she goes, like, read it again, and you'll see. And I was all, like, alright. So I, like, read it again. Meh.

L-girl said...

So when you're writing here, like in shorter posts and in comments, you're not writing how you talk?

Good question.

In comments, yes, somewhat.

But I'm a writer. I write the way I write, not the way I talk.

I'm not an especially good speaker, although I'm more confident in recent years from doing public speaking. But I'm way more articulate and confident in writing than in speaking.

Plus I have brain problems now, related to fibromyalgia (and age??), so I often can't pull together my thoughts as quickly as I'd like to. With writing, there is time to look things up and find the right word.

Even more to the point, though, I don't think the "uh" and "um" used as I'm saying here is actually mimicking speech.

In regular speech, people use "uh" the way Scott M did above, or the way people use "like", "you know", or "know what I'm saying" ("nome sane"). They're fillers, speech ticks, speech crutches. But people don't really say, "I'd voice my opinion, but Laura would, um, object."

I think this useage is specific to writing.

impudent strumpet said...

That might be the difference then. I do have meaningful (in the sense of "having semantic value") ums and likes and pauses in my speech, as well as meaningless ones. The meaningless ones don't get written, the meaningful ones do. If I've written an um or a like or used ellipses to represent a pause, it's there for a reason to express some nuance that wouldn't be there if I didn't use it. I could work around it, but that would be a lot of effort and would completely change the register and voice when I don't particularly see any need to.

Also, there's a whole book on Um. It's only tangental to this discussion, but I found it really interesting.

Kim_in_TO said...

omg so I was like laura why did you post this and she goes like read it again and you'll see and I was all like alright so I like read it again

meh

deang said...

I hate the written um's and uh's, too.

When I see them, I always picture a 12-year-old American girl ostracizing some classmate she considers not good enough to be in her clique: "Um, yeah Jenny. That'd be great. We'd, um, love to come to your party," accompanied by a contemptuous sneer.

And I suspect I'm alone on this, but I also hate the extensive use of abbreviations like IIRC, FWIW, and LOL. Not only do they have that annoying "everybody's doing it" feeling, they also cause me to pause too often in the middle of reading, even though I've seen them hundreds of times. And if I have to pause each time to remember what they stand for, I can only imagine what a stumbling block they are for people seeing them for the first time. I do make an exception for TGNOTFOTE, though.

Joe Grav said...

I'm with you here, but, uh, I LOVE "And so it begins" and "Wait for it."

deBeauxOs said...

Since your blog post is critical about the way some bloggers write, may I ask why the 'Reporters sans frontières' logo calling for the boycott of the Beijing Olympics links to your article at Common Dreams.org, instead of connecting to the RSF website?

Now, that really annoys me - the misdirection of blog readers.

Jere said...

I don't think of it as an internet thing at all. It's just something people say, and when they're writing, they use it there, too. I feel like I've been using it in conversation my whole life. Maybe I'm just trying to justify it. And maybe it was unnecessary all along anyway. Or maybe I was always using it to try to be funny.

But "internets" has got to go.

And I'm realizing that making fun of things is becoming as cliched as the things themselves. Like pointing out that MTV "used to play music." Above, I was going to mockingly say "That's a whole nother story." But I've said that so much lately, it seems just as dumb as saying "whole nother" in the first place.

See, now I don't know how to end this, because everything's been done. Damn you, ability to think and communicate with other beings!

John A. Ardelli said...

I've never had any big problem with this expression and still don't in theory. However, for me personally, it does carry some connections with painful memories; someone I love who doesn't associate with me anymore used to use this device a lot. Still, I find it still can be an effective device, used sparingly in INFORMAL writing. I myself use it, but only very rarely.

L-girl said...

And I suspect I'm alone on this, but I also hate the extensive use of abbreviations like IIRC, FWIW, and LOL.

I like these, only because they save typing time. I spend my whole life in front of a keyboard (day job, writing, blogging, emailing) and with arthritis in my fingers, saving keystrokes is a good thing. But I NEVER use them outside of email. I'm amazed to find them on some people's blogs!

I do make an exception for TGNOTFOTE, though.

Good man. :)

L-girl said...

Since your blog post is critical about the way some bloggers write,

My blog post is critical of the way some people write. It's not just blogs. I've seen this in print many, many times.

However, that has nothing to do with your request.

may I ask why the 'Reporters sans frontières' logo calling for the boycott of the Beijing Olympics links to your article at Common Dreams.org, instead of connecting to the RSF website?

Because I would like to draw readers' attention to the many reasons to boycott the Olympics.

Are you connected to RSF?

Now, that really annoys me - the misdirection of blog readers.

I don't see this as a misdirection, but if someone connected with RSF doesn't want me to use the logo, they should definitely tell me so. Is that you? Or are you just a random critic?

L-girl said...

I don't think of it as an internet thing at all.

Me neither! I will re-read my post to see if it implies it's an internet thing.

I first saw this in print, in a newspaper, a good 5 or 6 years ago. I do see it online, but I also see it in print - newspapers and magazines.

I feel like I've been using it in conversation my whole life.

In this form?

Maybe I'm just trying to justify it. And maybe it was unnecessary all along anyway. Or maybe I was always using it to try to be funny.

All of the above! :)

"Internets" is way played out. And you know what's played out even more?

TEH

redsock said...

From this morning's Boston Herald sports page:

No cure for Manny Ramirez mess, even in victory
By Steve Buckley

So it was all just a misunderstanding, this Manny Ramirez business. That's the way the Red Sox were spinning it Saturday afternoon, this after Manny deigned to return to the lineup, and a lot of people took the bait.

Things were, um, you know, "back to normal" at Fenway Park.

Yeah. Right.

********************

redsock said...

TEH

So "using teh Google" is out?

Scott M. said...

Other than as a misspelling of the word "The", what is TEH?

L-girl said...

Things were, um, you know, "back to normal" at Fenway Park.

Yeah. Right.


Ack! What is a quote from the loathsome Steve Buckley doing on wmtc??

Figures he uses um, you know, and yeah right, all in the same column.

So "using teh Google" is out?

Hey, I'm not the language police. This is just my opinion.

Other than as a misspelling of the word "The", what is TEH?

I'll let someone else field that one. I was late to the game with that one. Someone who actually uses it would probably explain it better than me.

Monday, July 28, 2008 10:58:00 AM

Sarah Gates said...

"The internets" can go, as long as I can keep "the google" a while longer. It still makes me laugh.

I understand the keystroke conservation argument, but LOL-speak irritates me in pretty much every application, including text messaging. I accept that it isn't going anywhere any time soon, but it bugs the ever lovin' snot out of me.

John A. Ardelli said...

Sarah, I have to agree with you. Even in cell phone text messages, which have a pathetic character limit of 160, I just can't bring myself to write in incomplete words and sentences, which goes a long way to explaining why I tend to squeeze every last character out of that 160 character limit when I do send a text message; this also explains why I tend to avoid text messaging unless absolutely necessary... ;)

L-girl said...

I understand the keystroke conservation argument, but LOL-speak irritates me in pretty much every application, including text messaging. I accept that it isn't going anywhere any time soon, but it bugs the ever lovin' snot out of me.

I totally understand that. For me, it's not an argument, it's a fact of life. It would be like asking someone with two busted knees to take the stairs instead of the elevator.

When I work in Word, I have dozens of words on auto-correct, so I can type three letters and the whole word appears. Every little bit helps. So for me LOL-speak is a tool I must use, loathesome though it may be.

John A. Ardelli said...

Oops... the above should have read "I can't bring myself not to write in complete words and sentences..."

Geez, here I am complaining about not writing in complete words and sentences and I go and leave out a word... *BLUSH*