We Are What We Speak

 

Almost none of us speak "the Queen's English". Our everyday language is a collection of learned colloquialisms, peppered throughout with slang and various grammatical blunders, which can be attributed to generational differences, ethnicity, class and cultural background.

As is the case with most dialects, English is a living language, with very little of it being set in stone. From the time we learn to speak our first words, our vocabulary and verbal nuances are products of our environment. Take into account other factors, such as accents and speech comprehension, and you'll begin to realize that each of our experiences with verbal communication is quite unique.

There are, however, certain intonations and habitual phrases which have the propensity to distract from your message or verbal discourse and alienate those you're speaking with.

Lest anyone cite the following verbal pet peeves as a case of "recency illusion,” subjective to solely to the complainant of today, an argument against them can indeed be made, as every age and culture adopts the accepted vernacular and fundamentals of communication that best serve the purposes and goals of the social milieu. Our grammatical rules, phonology and lexicon of today, are different from the past and are subject to change with time.

Within the modern-day workforce, job experience and academic accomplishment is important, although the primary characteristics that almost always determine eligibility are interpersonal and communication skills (written and oral).

In most casual settings, the following expressions and informal speech patterns do not hurt, but in many cases, where effective communication matters most, they certainly do not help.

1. "So"

Many, as of late, have gotten into the habit of taking the word "so" from its use as a mid-sentence conjunction to an interjection at the beginning of sentences.

When I hear someone begin a statement with "so,” I perceive it in two different ways: a) they're dependent on "so" as a verbal crutch, much like an "um" or an "ah,” and most likely aren't very sure of themselves or, b) it's a subconscious need the speaker utilizes to condescendingly talk down to others in order to to over-exaggerate their relevance or the importance of what they're communicating.The word "so" should really be used (in most cases) to mark the continuance of a narrative, not as habitual verbal tic.

There will always be instances when "so" is used to prompt a prospective conversation, change the subject in a conversation or bring your company's attention back to a previous topic of discussion. The irritating aspect of its misuse begins when someone literally frames every single sentence with "so". It's distracting and, as is the case with most overused filler speech, causes many people to simply tune you out.

Equally annoying are the people who tack on "so” at the end of a statement.

Just as I'm wondering what information I missed with those who begin sentences with "so,” I also find myself being fooled into expecting additional information by those who end with "so”.

Doing this gives an impression of being at a loss for words and shows a degree of inconsideration, as if to subtly suggest to your listener, "wait around while I rummage around my head for something more to say" -- which is usually nothing. It can also be perceived as a sign of thought disorder and laziness, hinting to the other person, "hey, I'll just let you fill in the blanks".

Eliminating extraneous filler speech allows your audience to focus on the information you're trying to convey, rather than the obstacles you're verbal clutter is making them sift through.

2. Vocal Fry

"Vocal Fry" is the creaky, glottolization that every other young woman has seemingly adopted within the last 10-15 years.

The purpose and origins of this ear splitting tonal language isn't clearly known, other than it probably began with some misguided young woman's supposition that it lent a veneer of sex appeal and sophistication to a life dominated by duck-faced "selfies" and bikini waxes.

Vocal fry, for those who've become immune to the noticeability of this epidemic, is the irregular vocal chord vibrations usually heard at their conclusion of the speaker's utterances.

This characteristic of contemporary female speech used to be relegated to gaggles of teenaged girls, but has gradually crept its way into every walk of life, every age demographic and social circle.

I used to somewhat enjoy listening to NPR, but now that having a prevalent speech impediment (including vocal fry) seems to be a prerequisite for employment there, I've stopped tuning in.

With all of the bumps in the road young women often face within the labor market, sounding like a monotonous, dollar store version of Kim Kardashian could only hinder one's opportunities, as it gives impressions of incompetence and  immaturity, effectually making you less likely to be taken seriously, let alone seen as hirable.

If the cringe factor alone isn't enough to break you of this habit, you may want to know that the persistent, excessive pressure that "frying" puts on your vocal chords has the potential to cause permanent damage. That's not just wishful thinking on my part, it's medical fact.

Vocal fry coming from a performance artist or English aristocrat could be attributed to eccentricity. When it comes from a 35-year-old housewife or an 8-year-old girl, it's just tragic.

3. "Just saying"

This bit of filler speech is indicative of a passive aggressive, placatory escape clause or plea for leniency at the end of a statement. It says "low brow" and cheapens the presence of anyone who uses it.

Its connotation suggests that you should discount what you've clearly heard someone say; or it's simply used as a discourse particle to express a speaker's indecisiveness.

Whenever people want to deliver an underhanded comment, absolve themselves of responsibility after delivering an unpopular statement, or realize they have absolutely no idea how to validate or add legitimacy to something they've said, "just sayin'(g)" is the perfect out.

The use of "just sayin'" is essentially an appeal for plausible deniability and can be indicative of a lack of conviction in one's statements; it also displays the absence of critical thinking skills and logic needed to support one's position and/or argument on any given subject.

If your statement lacks sincerity or validity, why say it in the first place? If your statement is indeed heartfelt, don't veil it in airs of apologetic reservation.  Moreover, when you speak, the act of speaking itself has clearly indicated that you've just said something.

There's absolutely no need to end your sentences with this superfluous qualifier.

4. "Boom!"

"Boom!" is usually used to express an intense feeling of satisfaction or accomplishment but, more often than not, it is used by ordinary people who wish to lend extraordinary qualities to commonplace, unimpressive occurrences.

Is it any coincidence that people who pepper their statements with makeshift explosions are seemingly inexhaustible sources of uninteresting information?

Probably not.

Equally annoying are those who break into the ever-popular, pantomimed "mind blown" gesticulation.

If you've constructed a ship out of matchsticks or have just witnessed someone sailing on said ship, say "BOOM,” feel free to intimate that your mind has been blown. However, if you've simply painted a bird house or discover you've unintentionally bought two bags of Cheetos -- don't.

Unless you're a child playing with action figures, or are a fight scene in the late 60s Batman TV show, you're likely better off without these pretentious dramatics.

5. Upspeak

"Upspeak" (sometimes known as "valley girl lift") is the rising inflection many people habitually employ at the end of a sentence. 

People who use this inflection come off as being filled with doubt: in their statements, in their ideas, in themselves.

If you're entire verbal delivery sounds like you're possibly questioning everything you're communicating, it will be nearly impossible to convince anyone listening that you know what you're talking about.

You could very well be articulating or pitching an ingenious venture or idea, but if it's packaged in radical uncertainty, you're likely to be overlooked.

6. Yeah, but no / No, but yeah

This non-committal expression is said to have its origins in Australia, but it's pretty much infiltrated every English speaking culture on Earth.

It's confusing verbal filler, and entirely unnecessary.

Example:

Speaker 1: You speak like an idiot.

Speaker 2: Yeah, but no, I think I speak very well.

The "yeah" is the unnecessary acknowledgement of speaker one’s remark, and the "no" is a sentence adverbial to begin speaker two’s intended response.

"Yeah, but no's" can also be assumed to be subtle cues that the speaker agrees with someone (yeah), realizes their point, but wants to return to an earlier topic (no), or could be interpreted as the speaker wanting to be agreeable (yeah), but also contradict or dismiss what someone has just said (no).

When someone uses the alternative "no, but yeah,” the astute listener may get the impression that the speaker is anticipating a potential objection to his statement.

Yeah, but no's/no, but yeah's are distracting and only clutter up a person's intended message.

Speak in complete, declarative sentences. "Yeah" (or preferably, "yes") should follow with the positive; "no" should follow with the negative.

7. Acronyms

In the age of Twitter's 140 characters (or less) and text messaging, people are increasingly coming up with new ways to say more, with less. Acronyms save time and space in casual online banter and communications, but do not translate so well in spoken language, particularly in academia and in the professional workplace.

True enough, the Americanism "OK" (from 19th century slang, oll korrekt) has cemented itself within the English lexicon, as has FYI (for your information), but I suppose moderation is everything. Today, according to social media marketing agency wearesocial.com.au, there are at least 60 well known acronyms which are used regularly online. Many of these have also begun to creep their way into everyday verbal discourse.

Unsurprisingly, many of these acronyms originated within circles of teenaged friends, which is in fact all fine in the teenaged world. Most adults ordinarily do not utter the declarative "best friends forever" or hurl a "hit me up" at their prospective boss to request an update on their employment inquiry; we certainly shouldn't utilize BFF or HMU in spoken language either. It's childish, it's pretentious and moreover confusing to most adults.

Teenagers and Sarah Palin speak in acronyms, but keep in mind, they are just teenagers and Sarah Palin.

8. Know what I mean?/Know what I'm saying?

Both of these phrases more than likely originated with people who had genuine concerns that they weren't being understood. Today, these are just articles of filler speech and rhetorical questions added to the end of statements out of sheer habit.

Other than the fact that these phrases are superfluous and annoying, they're almost always used by ignorant hayseeds and street trash who cannot, for the life of them, construct or enunciate a coherent sentence.

"Know what I mean?" tends to come out as "nuhwhuttahmeen?", and "Know what I'm saying?" is usually regurgitated as "nah'msayin?".

If you continually mutter these questions throughout the course of a conversation, I probably do not know what you're saying and ,furthermore, don't care to know.

When you take the time to think about what you want to say, and then learn how to articulate it, misunderstandings will be minimal.

9. It is what it is

This overused tautophrase is usually expressed when someone throws in the towel, either in the face of adversity or the prospect of having to exhibit any semblance of problem solving skills.

"It" doesn't always have to be "what it is". In fact, with a little determination and creativity, "it" has the potential to become so much more and possibly something entirely different.

Stay away from this phrase. It's asinine and cliche and only lets people know you have absolutely no insight on the situation at hand. It says you have no desire for resolution and wield no influence in the least.

If "it" inherently "is what it is,” "it" will speak for itself without your apathetic commentary.

10. Baby Talk/Sexy Baby Voice

The sociolect known as "baby talk" or "sexy baby voice,” like vocal fry, is another annoying speech pattern and dialect that many women have adopted.

One side of the argument against "baby voice" claims that the women who use this speech have adapted to specifically using it to win the favor of men, professionally or socially. It's verbal "peacocking" in an attempt to display submissiveness and accentuate youth and femininity.

A second take on this phenomenon is that the women who consistently speak like a pre-pubescent cartoon character have suffered some sort of psychological childhood trauma, which inadvertently triggers childlike nuances and vocalizations. This theory isn't hard science, but many psychologists consider it plausible.

While feminists and shrinks may find validity in these theories to support their own agendas, one thing is clear -- this trend is ear grating and detrimental to any woman who utilizes it. It presents impressions of timidity and inferiority, as well as a semblance of overall mental deficiency.

t's cute and humorous if you're Betty Boop or Jean Harlow, but less than desirable in daily interactions with the general public.

One of the most well known practitoners of "baby voice" is the detached, reality show drone known as Michelle Duggar. It's anyone's guess as to what went into the makings of this hot mess, but there's most definitely a story behind that perma-grin and mousey affectation.

As we consider these colloquialisms and speech patterns, and whether or not the disdain for them is particularly relevant, I think we have to remember that the majority of the tasks within our daily lives and the productivity thereof depends greatly on how well we communicate our thoughts and ideas to others.

You don't have to necessarily be an anal-retentive snob or suffer from an acute case of misophonia to appreciate engaging in an intelligible conversation or verbal exchanges free of speech disfluencies.

There's a passage within Ayn Rand's book “The Fountainhead,” in which the question is posed: Why is it easier to pass judgement on a man, based entirely on face value, than by his words and intellect? I believe that when it comes to first impressions and casual social encounters, we may be judged by both. 

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Comments

So, just saying (without being cheap), and it is what it is, this KHARDIGUL has BERRY GOOT viewpoints and AWBZURFECHUNZ.

EYE YAM GUADT EYE ZBEEK.

Ynomsayin?

GUAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADT?

DAT KHARDIGAL NOD'T RILL

(But on a serious note, well-written and totally Wekktacular, once again)

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