Friday, March 8, 2013

Is “so” the new “um”?

Yesterday, in her Knockout Presentations Blog, Diane DiResta posted that There’s a New “Um” in Town. She claimed to have recently discovered that the new filler word creeping into our presentations is the word “so.”

I’m always suspicious about “recent” discoveries. This one didn’t seem very recent to me. So, I looked around on Google to find how far back others had noticed and discussed that filler word.

A web page on Public Speaking (Model UN Preparation) that’s apparently from back on  April 8, 2005 says in a paragraph about Public Speaking Tips to:

“Eliminate unnecessary ‘filler’ words: Fillers are words and phrases such as ‘umm,’ ‘well,’ ‘sort of,’ and ‘like’. These words take away from the message you are trying to convey. Some additional fillers to avoid are ‘so,’ ‘you know,’ ‘I think,’ ‘just,’ and ‘uh’.”

It also was mentioned on February 7, 2007 by Yvonne Perry, on May 19th, 2008 by Gilda Bonanno, and on May 5, 2009 by Dana Bristol Smith. It also was discussed back in 2007 in a guide for the Ah Counter by a Toastmasters club.


Christiana Hennings said...

Here's a fun fact: I was in Tae Kwon Do for three years when I was younger. We weren't allowed to say "um" during practice because to Koreans (or at least to my instructors), "um" is negetive because it is the "yin" side of the South Korean flag which also means "dark" and "negetive" . I thought it was interesting to see how cultural differences can affect what you should and shouldn't say, even if it is just a filler word. So if you ever get the urge to say, "um", remember it has a negetive connotation, even more than what you thought. ;) -Christiana

Richard I. Garber said...


Wikipedia has a long list of filler words in different languages:

I was amused to see that one filler used in hindi is matlab (“it means”), which in English instead is an acronym for a programming language (MATrix LABoratory).