Challenge? Uh, well, yeah

When I hear radio and television interviews in which the speaker begins every answer with “Well, uh, I mean, like, uh, you know, uh, like…” I cringe.  That sucks up ten seconds of a thirty-second sound bite…and means absolutely nothing. The use of these stall-while-my-brain-kicks-into-gear fillers is somewhat forgivable when the interviewee is not a professional orator. When the speaker IS a professional radio or TV correspondent, I want to scream.

Fillers might be necessary when the persons have to deal with a “gotcha” question and must phrase their answers so they don’t offend their fans, political party or the NRA. Even when the question is benign and needs no stalling, it happens. “How did it feel to be named most valuable player?” The answer that starts, “Uh, you see, well, uh, I mean, like, uh, you know…” drives me crazy. Admittedly, it’s a short drive.

I decided, before I pounce too hard on others, to become more aware of my own speech patterns. No, I don’t use “like”—the word pre-teens and teenagers drop five times every twenty words. Score one for me. My “uhs” are minimal. Score two. I must confess, however, that I do hear “well,” “I mean” and “you know” sprinkled among my otherwise fascinating utterances.

Paying attention to my speech forced me to my New Year’s resolution for 2013: to rid myself of these fillers. Here it is April, and I haven’t given up. I guess I feel I have some hope of winning this battle.

As an incentive, I chose to make the challenge cost me something. Every time I catch myself pop out a filler, no matter how quickly or how quietly, I mentally charge myself twenty-five cents. Long conversations might cost me several dollars. Shame on me! I keep a tally and, at the end of the month, write a check to a favorite charity.  In January, Harry Chapin Food Bank received $50! For February, my accumulated filler-sprinkling fines went to the Press Club of Southwest Florida Scholarship Fund.

Want to take up the challenge? Your favorite charity could use the money. And nearly everyone’s speech could benefit from the filler-abolishing exercise.

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the scholarship fund can make the check payable to Press Club of Southwest Florida Scholarship Fund and mail it to Connie Kindsvater, Treasurer.

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