Filler Words’ Horrible Secret…Revealed!

The thing is, is no matter our differences we should be able to get along.”

“…and that’s the end of that story…ummmm…oh, yeah, and then there was another time when…”

“…to get to the other side!..soooo…like I was saying…”

They were all guilty.  All of them.  Even him.  He took comfort anytime he knew that to be the case.  There was something appealing about universal condemnations.  In this particular case, the crime was filler word use.  Why?  Because filler words were one more thing that he knew he should avoid, but couldn’t.  And this inability to stop using something frustrated him to no end.

Of late, something intriguing occurred to him.  He began to really listen for filler words, and see if he could determine a pattern.  He wanted to learn if there was anything he could do, any tip he could develop, to help himself and others stop using them.  And listen he did.  He listened to his own usage, he listened to other people’s usage.  After enough listening, the evidence pointed toward one specific conclusion.  For the most part, people use filler words to maintain control of the conversation.  At their core, then, filler words are a symptom of selfishness and laziness.

Yes, he was sure of it.  He thought of it this way.  Before children begin using filler words, they are taught to not interrupt.  And to interrupt is to speak while someone else is speaking.  It appears now, that an unintended consequence of this well-intended “don’t interrupt” principle is that speakers learn that if they are emitting interruptible sounds, even if not words, they will not have to give up the floor.  Enter filler words.

He knew he was on to something when he pushed the idea further.  Who uses the most filler words?  People who talk the most, naturally.  His ego wanted to believe this was coincidental–therefore a lesser crime–not causal, but he could feel the truth.  He played out a little experiment in his head.  He imagined a world where the use of a filler word ended that person’s turn to speak.  In this fiction, he imposed the harshest limitations.  If someone used a filler word, and no one else had anything to say–the conversation ended.  As he played the scenario out in his head, it became clear that the use of filler words is, in fact, causal in determining which people end up talking the most.  Just the same, if certain people can speak at length without filler words, it is a demonstration of skill and they should be able to speak.  Who was he to limit a person with demonstrable ability?

Equally condemned, he could not judge too harshly though.  It is likely that all people begin using filler words harmlessly enough.  But that was the past.  He wanted to be an agent of change.  “Strive” – his adopted motto.  Leading by example, he determined that he would stop speaking the next time he used a filler word.  He wondered if anyone would follow suit.



  1. Joan

    I start sentences with “Now,” or “The thing is” when I go unconscious. I don’t like that I do this. I have made some progress, but it has been slow and not enough. I judge myself harshly for this, but how else to stop?


    • A Mugwump

      According to the above (my) line of reasoning, being unconscious is a symptom of the problem, not the root. What’s causing the unconsciousness? And why not just fill the conversation with silence, instead of force it at that point? I don’t know what this world I’m kinda recommending would look like, but at times it is appealing.


    • A Mugwump

      Distractions do seem to vindicate the filler words that follow. However, I still think it is best to rid yourself of them. If anyone can rid himself of the habit, then everyone can.


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