Awhile back, Thingy posted about people who use the word “basically” all the time as a meaningless filler word.
I had never noticed it before reading that post, but now I’ve realized that I’m one of those people. So are a lot of the people I know. And now, like Thingy, it’s driving me crazy, but even I can’t stop. I tried to read up on it, and apparently it’s pretty common. I was wondering if it might be a regionalism (American Midwest, to be precise) but I couldn’t find anything to indicate that.
I looked up a list of other “filler” words on Wikipedia. Here are some, along with whether I use them or not:
- “like” (guilty)
- “I mean”(guilty)
- “so” (guilty)
- “actually”(Guilty–more in writing than in speech)
- “literally” (Not guilty, and misuse of it annoys me.)
- “right” (I’m more likely to say “I know, right?”)
- “I’m tellin’ ya” (guilty–I’m more likely to say, “I’ll tell you what…”)
- “you know what I mean?” (Guilty by reason of hearing other people say it, and picking it up.)
The Wiki article also mentions that “Ronald Reagan was famous for answering questions starting with ‘Well…'”. I do that all the time, too. I remember when watching the debates, President Obama would often begin his answers to questions with “Well, look…” I guess all three of us could be accused of going to that well too often.
Is there an example of someone who (without using a script) speaks without using any filler words? I suppose it would have to be somebody who was good at thinking very quickly, because more often than not, filler words are used to fill airtime while you are thinking of what to say next.
Someone at SWW pointed out all the needless “Had”s in writing. I went back over my three novels and found all kinds of had this and had been that and had had something. I edited all three and removed hundreds of useless words. Rule of thumb I adopted “If the sentence means the same without the word had, don’t use it.” For Had been (going), use went or was. Now I pick up a book to read and the “Had’s” drive me crazy.
Thanks for the tip–I’ll watch out for that in my own writing.
BTW, sorry it takes me so long to approve your comments these days–I only occasionally have blog access.