Mental Floss

Weekend Word Wrap: filler words

David K. Israel

I'll admit it: for a period during my late 20s, I used to use the word like as filler - pretty much the way teenagers were at the time, and still do. It wasn't conscious, and I certainly didn't use it in every sentence, nor did I emphasize it in a Valley-girl kinda way (e.g. "And he was, like, no way!") But it served the purpose of filling in sentence gaps much the same way the French will throw in an ehhh or a maybe, when they're thinking about the next word they want to use. (e.g. "Ehhh, maybe, ehh, ihhh, you want we go to dinner, now, ehh, maybe, ehh"¦")

A colleague of mine came into my office the other day complaining that someone accused her of inserting "y'know" in every other sentence. (e.g. "So, the best way to, y'know, slice a bagel, is to, of course, use a knife.")

I told her about my like addiction a decade ago and informed her that I was eventually able to stop using the word altogether by consciously using the phrase: "it's not unlike," which, of course, means the exact same thing. It slowed me down so much, that, eventually, I had to do away with the filler word because, let's face it, who really wants to have a conversation with someone who speaks like this: "So I was not unlike, get out of town, dude. And he was not unlike, excuse me?"

Of course, people still use like and y'know as fillers pretty much willy-nilly. The question I ask you, the loyal Word Wrap readers is this: what's your favorite, or, perhaps LEAST favorite filler word of all time? And, maybe even better, how about we nominate some new words to replace the old hackneyed standbys?