Sunday, 27 September 2009

Verbal tics

Most speakers, and most writers, have verbal tics. Words, phrases and patterns that they overuse. Sometimes they make us sound stupid to some people, even to ourselves. But we should go easy on each other (and on ourselves) since harping on these impediments will only make communication more difficult.

For the time being, I'm going to split these tics into two categories: fillers and cliches. Fillers are things like "um", "er", "like", "you know", and they often litter the speech of poor or inexperienced communicators. Cliches are phrases - often metaphors and other figurative expressions - that made us sound more interesting when they were original but nowadays have exactly the opposite effect. An iconic example, currently under discussion over at LL, is "at the end of the day". Americans tend to label this as typical management-speak, while here in Britain we associate it with sports people. In fact, as Mark Liberman has been seeking to demonstrate, this cliche knows no bounds - it's used by every sort of person in every register.

on Jeremy Kyle

the lovely Lauren Luke

Michael McIntyre

Daily Telegraph competition

Tim Kidwell at WSJ

the T-shirt


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