Blog #25 Disfluency Gap Fillers and Style

It is entirely possible that as p. gets older, he is becoming more critical.  Be that as it may, the misuse of many words {he almost said “bugs (but a bug is a small insect or a telephone tap}, “bothers” him. Most people have the ability to select, from the copious inventory that constitutes the English lexicon, words to satisfy their need to effectively communicate. There nevertheless are many, whether by reason of disfluency, or perceived style who fill in gaps in their conversation with code or ersatz words. A small, but representative sample is set forth below:

The word: “so” (style). A particular, quirky, use of this word demonstrates a mistake in style of a simple word, rather than a gap filler. The utility of this word is seen, properly, as a statement of consequence, or extent, as to a previously expressed statement. Thus, the day was cold, so we needed a warm coat, he looked pale so I asked him how he was feeling, or, I was very tired so I stopped working.  Also, I was so hungry.

Why many people especially those most celebrated and knowledgeable, (especially on television) precede their answer to a question with the word, “So,” boggles the mind. Perhaps it is a direction to pay attention, a chance to think of an answer or the quick dispersal of mind fog…

(1st Filler) “Totally”:  This word, when used as intended, is useful in expressing quantity or extent:  The jar was totally full or, he is totally blind.

It is often misused as a one word, emphatic response to signify agreement. “Are you planning on going to the dance? “ Totally” Do you think he is good-looking? “Totally” What happened to words?

(2nd Filler) “Awesome”: This word when appropriately used means majestic, fear inspiring,” mind-blowing.”  For believers, the power of the Deity is awesome. The movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates can be seen as awesome; maybe, just maybe, Victoria Falls qualifies as awesome.

The word has been so frequently misused and diluted as to render it essentially meaningless. The taste of pizza can never attain the heights of “awesome” nor does an exceptionally good performance of a singer or professional athlete. Surely, there is whole panoply of words to describe the feeling.

(3rd Filler) “Whatever”:  A useful word to express the word, anything, no matter what, or the remainder of a quantity. The misuse of this word is no less than truly obnoxious.

It has been used, insensitively, to indicate a lack of interest on the part of the listener, most dismissively when uttered twice.  A patient, in long time   treatment for a diagnosed bad back, tells his doctor that he has received a second opinion to the effect that the problem, in fact, is with his kidneys. Should the doctor reply “whatever,” the patient is well advised to go elsewhere, at full speed ahead.

4th Filler (“Like”): This word is properly be used to express affection or as a comparative, or simile. Its misuse seems to also qualify under “style” (see above).

Instead, it is generously sprinkled throughout the user’s conversation like powdered sugar, as a substitute for words (filler), to avoid expressing words upon the occasion. It is truly viral and chronic, taking such aesthetic form as, “Greta, like, why don’t you come over?” Greta, like, my mother goes to me like, and I have to clean my room.” “Like” gives Greta the sense that she has fully responded yet has kept things  “cool” {see below} by thus providing a hedge against the revelation of her feelings.  {This malady may be incurable}

5th Filler (“Hot”): Simply put, this usually a reference to temperature (heat). For example, the feeling when we are sun bathing. It can also be used to refer to food of a spicy or peppery nature, to enthusiasm, to dedication or to anger.

As currently misused, it is the expression of a personal opinion to the effect that someone has sex appeal; is sexy. ”He is hot,” or, I have the hots for her.” Talk about fillers! This is a truly sad and inadequate substitute for poetry or love ballads.

6th Filler (“Dude”): This word, historically, was used as a reference to an especially well- dressed gentleman, or,” fop”.  It is also acceptably used to describe a city dweller, inexperienced with the milieu of a farm or a ranch.

The word, however, has been used as a single word declaration, usually from one male to another, of criticism or as a warning. This failure to use any available vocabulary words, in this instance is especially emblematic of the concept of the word, “filler” and the subject point.

Prehistoric man used signals and grunts; we can do better.





Blog #3 observed that, despite the incontrovertible fact that are religion and belief systems are acquired merely by the accident of birth, differences of belief have historically resulted in war and strife.

Contention has also arisen over the years concerning the existence of a Deity at all, by reason of the lack of probative evidence; yet those who would deny such an assertion lack sufficient equipment for such denial. They would, for their part, exclude the creation of our planet and its evolving flora and fauna, as proofs; yet still others would see necessary language in the sacred books as undeniable proof of God’s existence.

“Religious belief”, as a phrase, has always borne a close, undeniable relationship with the word “faith.” But the word “faith” is distinguishable from the word “knowledge.” The context of the word Faith, properly understood, clearly expresses the concept of choice; the choice to believe “has faith”; compare with” has no faith” Clearly, faith is distinguishable from “knowledge.”  Knowledge is factual and empirical viz., water is wet, most dogs have four legs, giraffes have very long necks. “Believers” are apt confidently, to proffer as proof, sacred books and ancient religious commentary. It cannot be denied,   however, that such sacred books including the Bible, were written by humans who confidently believed that the sun travels around the earth.

The Founding Fathers, significantly and deliberately, chose to omit any reference to a deity in the Constitution. Historical research reveals that such omission was intended to avoid the possibility that religious fundamentalists would seek to erode liberty of thought; they had plenty of supporting evidence from the histories of England and continental Europe

The” Scopes” trial in Tennessee, where a schoolteacher was tried for the crime of teaching evolutionary theory to his high school students, demonstrates the continuance of fundamentalist ignorance and literalism. It was, in fact the growing development of free thought that enabled Darwinian Theory. Currently, most educational districts permit the inclusion of evolutionary theory; some, regrettably, continue to shun evolutionary theory in favor of Genesis.

An egotism may be perceived among certain “believers”who state that “too much education is dangerous” and who reject scientific insight.

P would confidently (and if possible, diplomatically) state that blind religious faith and literalism impedes human thought and creativity. In reality, like it or not, we are all agnostics whether or not we like the label. The unsupported belief, or non-belief, proves nothing to anyone. It does matter, whichever fork in the road we choose presented by the option of “faith,” that we all live in harmony and love.


Blog #23 Measuring Stimulus (Redux)

The subject of the attempt to react appropriately to events (stimuli) has been treated in earlier blogs (9, 19) as described to one’s perception of reality.  As we get older a relatively balanced and accepting perception of the self evolves (Blog #6) including, ideally, a measured response to events as they occur.  However, this subject is of such great import that the present addendum may be useful.

Events have a way of occurring, things happen bringing change (Blog #15). Yet events or happenings only matter, to the extent of our corresponding emotional response to them.

Since perception is not the identical twin of objective reality, the conclusion, that responses to various events are varied, appears to be reasonable.  The response may be almost instantaneous, depending upon previous self- conditioning.

This is contrasted with our autonomic responses (reflexes) such as the patellar reaction, blinking at bright lights   and startling at unexpected loud noises. Excluding such automatic, reflexive responses which occur without conscious thought, other responses to stimuli exist over which we have some power of choice; further, the selection of an appropriate response may be a very significant ingredient in the living of a satisfying life.

Aesthetic and other positive reactions to beautiful music,   sunsets, art and the like may vary, yet are always salutary and have a positive impact upon our health and lives.  It would appear to be more useful to deal with the stimulus-response ratio in matters universally understood and perceived to be unfortunate or even tragic.

It would appear to be useful, since the phenomenon of perception varies and is malleable (unlike the reflexive responses set forth above) to discuss the quantum and quality of individual response to events. Our reaction   to a troublesome or negative happening may be shutter-click instantaneous, however the reaction may be quickly photo -shopped.

Again, the extent to which we assault our bodies and minds with terror and negative perspective, may have a deleterious effect upon our health; it certainly has an impact on our joy and satisfaction with life.

  1. suggests a useful mode of dealing with perception of unfavorable events, would if employed, might result in better perspective and balance. It requires a bit of (mental) woodworking, but is worth it.

One might construct an imaginary set of wooden shelves, perhaps ten (10) shelves high. Immediately after completion (varnish not required) the shelves are to be strictly and permanently allocated  as to  events so that the top (10th) shelf is for the most major tragedies such as death of a loved one, diagnosis of inoperable, terminal, cancer and matters of like consequence.   Perhaps the lowest shelf could be allocated to such minor stimuli as, the appearance of a “zit”, shaving nicks, broken off fingernails and such other matters of like import.

A progressive allocation should be made in accordance with the   ascending empirical and objective materiality of likely occurring events (this is why it is crucial that the woodworking and allocation be done in advance).

Thereafter, it is only necessary to assign or relegate the importance or depth of troublesome situations as they occur, to the proper shelf to avoid over-reacting, and uncalled for stress.

{with a wink}  p





Blog #22 Origin of the Specious

It was famously, Charles Darwin, who startled the world by revealing the process of successive and progressive mutation by which we morphed from amoeba to American.

Words also, would   seem to evolve, over time and changed context; but unlike phylogeny, not always towards the most useful. Acceptable nouns, such as “bitch,” which meant, in polite English usage, a female dog, grew to describe a shrewish, or mean woman. Likewise, the word “bastard” which was a (negative) word to adjudicate an individual as  born out of wedlock and therefore not entitled to heirship. The latter, morphed noun came to be used as an epithet describing a person as mean, ungrateful or stingy. Mercifully, proceedings to determine fatherhood are more recently called “paternity proceedings” rather than “bastardy proceedings.”

The instance of an unusual (double) mutation of the phrase “politically  correct” uniquely demonstrates an  evolution  from that of  an evil context  to a positive one, and then,  regrettably, back  to an atavistic usage.

The phrase, “legally correct”   had a pernicious  application,  as  employed in  countries such as  the USSR or  China to  signify  that the words used  passed muster  (read,  party or government censorship) as not being contrary  to approved dogma. With the decline of totalitarianism, the parlance became a   salubrious and beneficial one.

In a multicultural society the phrase has reference is to the avoidance of vocabulary which could be insensitive or insulting to those of differing physical features, cultures or beliefs. Such effort and intention to be good neighbors, used reasonably, is demonstrably, salutary and commendable.   The sincere desire to live together in harmony and peace is also among the most useful and beneficial of our evolved human traits and is within the universally accepted “Golden Rule.”

Unfortunately, for some, the phrase has evolved into yet another use, one which is detrimental to the peace and harmony of society. [Perhaps envisioning the future   they should have called it   “Socially Correct.”]

Many Americans, often those whose views lean rightward, have relegated the phrase to an interference with their liberty and right to free speech. However, the injury of others was always, judicially, the limit and boundary of our legal and constitutional rights; we also have the right, by the way, not to be injured.

The only speech infringed upon is bigoted speech.  Yet statements have been reported such as “Those who don’t have the b–lls to say what they {read, what “I”} want” or, verbally attribute the practice to “liberal pussies”

Since he clearly has the choice, not to be in accord with the “flat earth” denizens of our planet, p.  shall opt, permanently, to remain a progressive felis domesticus.





Blog #21 Civic Amity, A Requiem

The word “debate” is universally understood to represent an orderly, peaceful, presentation between well informed participants, who voice disparate views on a designated subject. The traditional purpose is the crystallization of issues for individual determination.

P finds the “Presidential Debates”   utterly useless, as not being debates by any criteria, but instead reality show style contests featuring personal wrangling.   It is insulting to the literate citizen

We are fortunate to live in a nation where freedom of speech and thought are legally and unconditionally guaranteed. There is no” party line” or mandated dogma. Understandably, there are numerous disparate and competing assumptions and points of view, just as there is diversity in background and personality.

Ideally, the well-intentioned, collegial exchange of differing opinions, on the assumption that the good of society is intended by all, would be the most effective decision making process.” Partisanship” itself can be constructive, if the common goal is shared and positive.

Jefferson believed that every citizen had the “duty” to “aid the State” in the resolution of issues.  He also wrote that citizens should be well informed so that they would be useful in this endeavor.

If the assumption were true that the proponents of all points of view    have the public good as the common goal, there would seem to be no rational basis for hostility (latent or manifest) between citizens of varying views. Yet it is unfortunate to observe the widespread existence of such enmity. .  It may be that many people may not be capable of enjoying the perspective necessary in this rational process nor possess sufficient confidence in themselves. Such individuals see contrary opinion as nothing short of an attack against themselves and others who share their views. This, of course makes such people receptive to parties who have their own motivation and often cause such individual to vote against his own personal interest.

Worse still p. has seen a complete breakdown of our treasured “civic amity.”  Instead of the well intentioned and constructive reception of alternative suggestions (as necessary to the solution of problems)   we have, instead, hatred experienced and the perception of evil.

RIP well informed, friendly and constructive exchange of ideas; RIP civic amity.






Blog #20 Love Without Words

It may just be that the most articulate and effective communication is expressed without verbal language.

In the world of great symphonic music, Mendelssohn’s “Songs Without Words” is an expression of truly great aesthetic beauty and emotion.

Upon reflection, it would seem that the most important and aesthetic form of communication is expressed without the need for vocabulary. It is a language not effectively tutored or learned from Berlitz. To be sure, even a competent analysis of the original Rosetta Stone, now residing peacefully, after multiple larcenies, in the British Museum in London, would not reveal a clue or heirographic concerning it.

It is probably the only language that can be learned, but not taught. It effects peace, friendship and bonding between people(s) when employed; its avoidance promotes isolation, insularity, selfishness and a perceived meaningless existence.

“Empathy” is the word and category of language.  Everyone has presumably, sufficient knowledge of its definition but, in many cases, insufficient experience with its practical application.

The inclination, or aptitude to sufficiently and genuinely feel for other human beings; the sincere mitigation of the constructs of “I”, “we” and “they,” are what distinguishes us from the dinosaur. Unfortunately, we all know too many 21st Century dinosaurs who view others as objects.

The institution of religion has always preached empathy. Unfortunately, history shows that differing religious beliefs have all too often led to conflict and suffering and the message gets lost.

Not too many decades ago, there was a well- intentioned movement to create and  promulgate  a universal, international language, [“Esperanto”]  in the belief that the employment of a common language by all peoples would mitigate national and ethnic differences and that, as a consequence, peace and brotherhood  would ensue .It was a dismal failure.

What may work for mankind is the non-verbal language (analogous to “Songs without Words”) of human empathy.

The exercised ability to empathize with others leads to friendship, bonding and the feeling of shared life. It opens us up for educative and soul-satisfying experiences and may be the only path to peace.

Nor should laudable and humanistic feelings and acts be restricted to holidays. Thanksgiving   and Christmas dinners for the homeless are commendable and should be continued. Yet the expression of charity and compassion throughout the year would be even more empathetic.








Blog #19 Silent Soliloquy

To whom can one speak as well as to oneself?  True, healthy and effective communication with others and success in life may in large part depend upon the relative nexus between “societally acceptable” “reality” and one’s personal, private perception.

This writing does not deal with the investigative search for truth in the sciences; one can only assume (hopefully) that criteria governing the conduct of scientific exploration are objective and are being faithfully observed.

In the areas of human interaction, differing standards of morality, philosophical thought and recollection of past experiences, result in conflicting views of reality and complicate the search for “truth.” Indeed, such differences as may lead to varying perceptions of reality or,” truth” may be non-productive, and in the worst case, dangerous.

“Where you stand depends upon where you sit” regrettably, is an all too common formulation in the understanding of interpretation of fact and experience.  Unfortunately, there would seem in life to be no effective reality except that which impresses itself upon our personal perception.

Is the pasta sauce too hot and spicy or not hot enough?  Am I really too busy, or is it my mood? Is he travelling too fast or not? Is he a freedom fighter or an insurgent rebel? Our judgment may depend upon our mood at the time of observation, our interpretation of past experience, and our private biases.

Honest and truthful witnesses, at trial and under solemn oath,   may testify to diametrically opposed versions of the material facts of the case; recollected language, employed in a spousal row, may significantly vary as to vocabulary; long ago experience may, upon its   retelling, take on a tone and context dependent upon the teller’s worldview.

It is, unfortunately, not true that there is an answer to every problem; no way of looking up the correct answer in the back of the algebra textbook.

This is not to say that there are no difficult problems that can be solved by the application of logic and good sense. For example when p. was a high school student, he won two “chunky bars” by solving the age-old chicken egg question. P. correctly reasoned that the egg came first which egg was laid by the creature that was one step in evolution before the chicken. That hatched egg was the first chicken.

However, most serious problems appear to be not  solvable by logic nor  empirical demonstration The problem of differences in perception is one  of  life’s imponderables but one of which every thoughtful person must crucially aware and understand and tolerate.


Blog #18 Humor, No Laughing Matter

Out of 17th Century Spain,  brought to your local theaters by the same iconic producers and directors that brought you the box office boffos, Columbus (see pliny blog #2) and the Spanish  Inquisition comes the  daring expedition of discovery of  nobleman,  Juan  Ponce de Leon.

The goal was to discover the (mythical) “Fountain of   Youth” which by some colossally funny finger of fate, brought him to the State of Florida, slated to become the Mecca of the elderly retiree.

Had de Leon been possessed (in theory) of a crystal ball which would have enabled him to see the laughable nature and the future of his enterprise, he and his retinue might have and been afforded some benefit, from that hilarious vision.

Modern scientists, of every stripe, are in complete agreement in ascribing to laughter, positive effects, such as physical relaxation,   relief from tension, even the enhancement of the immune system, perhaps, longevity.

Down through the ages, the contagious nature of laughter (studies show, more contagious than coughing and sneezing) has brought people together, reduced physical pain and has had numerous and varied salubrious benefits.

Authoritative studies of the effects of laughter show that it improves the mind, lends helpful perspective to disappointing or perplexing situations and reduces conflict.

To p., the greatest and most remarkable property of spontaneous laughter, is that it adds joy and zest to life.

Laughter is our birthright, is innate, inborn and, by the way, free.

Those who cannot see the lighter side of life, may find much less joy in their  life than persons with significant physical handicaps who do  have a sense of humor.

Someone should have told our friend Ponce, that the fountain, like all important things, is inside him.