Tag Archives: verbal filler

“Friends, I’ve Got, Like, a Favor to Ask”


Hey, friends, I’ve got a favor to ask.

Like, if you, like, catch me using, like “like” in a sentence or, like, even in a phrase, like, I’ve thus far used “like” in this sentence five senseless and indefensible times, please, please—I’m begging you—slap me hard across the face. And the sooner, the better, before the worm digs into my brain’s neurons and embeds itself so deeply that it can’t be removed.

I feel almost the same about, uh, “uh.” I suppose we all use, and can’t help using, some verbal “placeholders” in ordinary speech. Our mouths outpace the computing ability of our brains and, lest something horrible happen—maybe a moment of silence where we stop to think or, even worse, the person on the other end of the conversation gets a chance to jump in—we litter the air with an “uh.” We all do it. And, uh, up to a point, no big deal.

But if you’re, uh, a public speaker and you do what is probably the most helpful—and horrifying—thing you can do by listening to a recording of yourself speaking, and you hear “uh” beginning to creep in, over and over, oh, dear friend, give yourself one more speech to try to correct it. If that doesn’t work, commission a friend with the stern command to toss cold water in your face after he’s heard, say, three “uhs” in your speech. And if, uh, the uhs continue, check yourself in for serious counseling, therapy, and perhaps electroconvulsive shock treatments. Your brain must be re-set somehow, or your speaking career will need hospice care and mortuary services.

Like, I blame California (probably surfers) for spawning the aforementioned “like” as a pernicious verbal filler. Or maybe it originated with Colorado or New Mexico ski bums, but since I aspire to be one of those, I’ll leave them alone. I’ll bet it was California. “As California goes, so goes the nation” is a proverb that I find utterly terrifying. (Google “glottal fry” for another contagious California “gift” to verbal and vocal carnage.)

I know. Like, breaking such habits is, like, uh, hard, dude. The Texan under my hat went to preach in Indiana and found that he couldn’t say three words without saying “y’all”—which native Indiana Indianans don’t say. The loss of “y’all” rendered me almost mute. (I still maintain that “y’all” is a southern gift to the English language which is otherwise hamstrung by the lack of a distinctive second person plural pronoun.)

By the way, can you imagine a modern-day “like” addict on the campaign staff for “Eisenhower for President”? “Like, I, like, like Ike, like!” Like, locked up forever in a vicious “like” cycle, never to return.

I think the Bible gives worthwhile counsel on this. A number of Proverbs’ proverbs tell us to watch our mouths. More than a few other verses also tell us to be careful what we say and how we say it. Others say, basically, that some occasional silence is, like, uh, a good thing. Maybe we’d profit by being quiet for a few minutes and pondering some of this wise counsel.

God himself accomplished his greatest miracle by sending into this world just one perfect Word.



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Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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