‘So’, here in Ireland it now seems that nobody can answer a question or commence a sentence without ‘so’ being the first word used. It is the newest ‘in word’ – or what might be commonly called a ‘crutch word.’ ‘Look’ and ‘listen’ are also well up there – especially when someone from the world of sport is being interviewed.
The greatest ‘filler’ word over the past decade has been ‘like.’ God Almighty; like sometimes it would be like used two or like three times in the same like sentence. This one came from America … as did of course the obligatory conversation filler, ‘omigod’ – or ‘omigawd’ in its original form. And speaking of ‘American’, regrettably, more and more Americanisms are attacking plain English speak like a virus. Our beautiful, distinctive regional accents are under threat.
The educated younger – and not so young generation, now parrot the American style of raising the volume at the end of a sentence and make a statement sound like a question. The latest American crutch word is ‘doubling down’ Yea, I know that is two words, but get used to them before your ordinary man in the street loads it up.
I digress … where was I …
The use of a ‘crutch word’ is very understandable and there is nothing wrong with it – in moderation! During conversation, the use of a ‘filler word’ gives us a little more time to think about a response. We also use them in writing for effect, (Guilty as charged!) but if we end up overusing ‘crutch words’, either in the written word or verbalising, it annoys the reader and listener.
‘Listen’ (!), what do the words, ‘basically’, ‘literally’ or ‘actually’ contribute to what you are trying to say? There is a sports commentator on local radio here, who uses the word ‘certainly’ once or twice in almost every sentence. The worst part is that despite being engrossed in the match, I find myself cringely waiting for the next ‘certainly.’ ‘Definitely’, is yet another much over-used ‘crutch word’ in all types of general conversation.
Brian Cowen’s “we are where we are”, Michaḗl Martin’s “going forward” and Leo Varadkar’s “people who get up early in the morning”, have all entered the realm of other people’s fillers when they cannot think of anything fresh to say. Indeed these are fall-back ‘crutches’ which have lasted a long time.
Have I used ‘virtually’ here yet? This is another word bandied about as a bit of dressing on a sentence. I almost forgot the most common crutch word on the planet. It transcends all borders and is pronounced the same in every language. The word is ‘ummm’. Here we have a very forgivable ‘filler’. We are all inclined to go ‘ummm’ when we are trying to think of what to say next. I enjoyed a couple of pleasant years in Toastmasters years ago and the first thing it teaches you is to eliminate, or at least reduce your ‘ummms’
There are some crutch words we cannot use in this respectable newspaper. These were once deemed to be the sign of a limited vocabulary – but any of you who watch Bill Maher or John Oliver, will see how far this theory has been debunked,
We may or may not be close to another election in Ireland. Whenever it comes, you can ‘rest assured’ (Janey … there goes another one!) that these old reliable crutch words will be dusted down by the politicians. ‘On the ground’ and ‘on the doorstep’ will preface the answer made to any query by a reporter. I hope that nobody goes ‘doubling up’ ‘on the doorstep’ and finishes up ‘on the ground!’ ‘Personally speaking’ in ‘real time’ sounds a lot safer to me … ‘personally speaking!’
‘But’ can be overused in a sentence and serves as a common crutch word: And on this one, I shall leave you with a chuckle.
I had a friend, Billy O’Callaghan, in Canada in one of my other lives. Billy was a character in the mould of our recently departed ‘La Zenia Legend’, Tomas. Billy too had that rare gift where he could say anything to anybody without offending them.
Billy’s work partner had a bad stammer, and it needs to be said, they were great friends on and off the job. Anyway, Don would start telling Billy something and half way through he would get stuck on “but …. Bb .. but …b .. but. This is where Billy interrupted with; “less of the ‘but’ please, and more of the story!!”
In future this column will strive for less of the ‘but’ and more of the story!