Add style to your speech
On a phone call with a friend the other day, I was told that I was using the expression ‘you know’ a lot. ‘You know’ is mostly used as a filler expression -- an expression without any specific meaning, that just becomes a habit. I observed my speech over the next few days, and concluded this wasn’t really the case -- it had just been that one phone call.
But that got me thinking. Words such as ‘like’ are in some ways a matter of style, and are also fun to use once in a while. While using this word to such an extent that it becomes a habit is a bad idea, it is still a fun way to bring some variation to your speech, and not always sound like a book.
For most people, these simple speech habits are so automatic that they do not even notice them any more. That’s something one must avoid carefully. For example, as long as you are not using the word ‘like’ (as a filler, something we discussed last week) in your exam essays, and in formal interaction with your teachers, you’re probably doing all right, and have learnt to use the word in the right way.
The advantage with the word ‘like’ is that it at least gives you a sense of style, and a mannerism for your informal interactions. There are many other words we overuse, however, that are not even very effective as a mannerism or a style for your speech. Another expression, similar to ‘you know’ is ‘well.’ Let’s take an example or two for these expressions.
“What do we do next?” “Well, I was thinking we could watch a movie, you know.”
“Well, there were three of us at the fair, having a great time, you know.”
In standard English, of course, these are all meaningful expressions that are absolutely valid. ‘Well’ works as an adjective: (‘She swims really well.’), and the expression ‘you know’ comes in handy for when you want to hint at something, but not say it outright (Similar to ‘You-know-who’ in the Harry Potter series, for example.) In informal spoken English, these expressions become interjections. People then insert these phrases in every sentence, or even many times in a single sentence.
Again -- the above examples are all perfectly correct usages of these expressions. There is nothing wrong with using ‘well’ at the beginning of a sentence, as an interjection. The same goes for the use of ‘you know’ even as a filler expression. There is a problem only if using these expressions becomes a habit that you are not even aware of.
Not just words, simple sounds are also used as filler expressions that lend your speech some style -- or just give you an extra second to think of the next word. We’ll examine some of these expressions next week.
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