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.




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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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