Since we at the blog have a ‘Reading’ theme series of posts about the overly lofty kinds of books that we read together at the Noumenal Realm. I thought that I would make more light hearted observations of the world around me by having trying to make my own series of posts, namely about words that I hear repeatedly in public, in private conversations or in the media. I’ll call these Antisophie’s ‘Words’, plus I’ve done something like this already throughout the years.
Tic-words, or filler words
I was practicing the clarinet with Destre a while back and I was tuning my Bb Clarinet. It had been a long time since I’ve picked up a clarinet and I was not confident about playing after so long. I thought that the instrument was in tune and so I said to Destre ‘It’s sort of an A [as in concert A]’, to which he replied angrily: ‘It’s not ‘sort-of’ an A’, it IS an A!’. With that comment it tied with a conversation that we had previously about the ways in which people use filler words or what I might like to call tic-words to fill gaps in otherwise empty or underconfident self expression.
I’m sure you’ve all heard it all before, unless you are buried under Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, this form of speech is so prevalent that I am guilty of it. Destre is not guilty of it and never stops reminding me so. It’s the thing that people do when they say ‘sort of’ all the time, or ‘like’, or ending a sentence with ‘really’.
In these contexts, the words don’t mean anything. That is why I find these expressions so problematic. In the 20thC it was said that the use of the word ‘so’ as a synonym for ‘very’ was an indicator of decline in the English Language. An example of this is when Joey Tribbiani in the sitcom Friends said to Chandler Bing: ‘you are so wearing that bracelet’, after giving the latter an unwelcome gift. The meaning of ‘so’ functions as an emphasis or term of distinction. There is nothing distinct however about the candidates of filler words.
The problem I find about these filler words is mainly that its infectious. So (sic) much so that I end up mirroring the vocal tics of people after a while. I have heard Guardian Journalists in podcasts endlessly using these filler words and it makes them look like amateurs. It also has the contrary effect of making them appear sufficiently young enough to be relevant to their audience (I read a bit of music and fashion journalism).
I might sound like a stick in the mud, and the litmus test for this would be if expressions like ‘sort of’, ‘like’, or ‘really’ appropriate a meaning. The term ‘really’ might have a new appropriated meaning that is legitimate. It is often said after something in a matter of fact way as if to communicate sincerity or factual honesty. For example:
“I think the Brogues would be much more apt for a date, really”
My concern with these terms, as Michael hints on in this article about the word ‘trolling’ is that it can be used to appropriate something largely different to its canonical meaning, and insofar as it does the meaning of the term changes, but if a term is used ubiquitously in too wide a context, that adds nothing to the meaning of a statement, then it is filler, and unhelpful English.
One other thing I absolutely hate is when people use the suffix ‘so’ at sentences to communicate some kind of enthymeme which is usually loaded in the sentence, but not inherent within it. Also as I see it as a tic-like behaviour but not exactly so, I am infuriated by the prevalence of it. The thought of it is particularly arrogant in that it claims to be an assertion yet what the conclusion of what is said through ‘so…’ is not explicited in words, it makes neither a completed thought nor a a completed sentence.I think a visual example of this would be apt, so…