Wednesday 1 July 2015

Why do people talk so awkwardly?                              

The average person, in an average lifetime, speaks 370,110,000 words. The average life expectancy in the world is 67.2 years. I am in my eighties so it follows that I and other seniors my age and the Japanese whose life expectancy is 80 years probably speak more words.

It follows that I have heard far more than 370,110, 000 words because of my age and  especially since I have had conversations with almost a thousand English speaking people in the 3o countries around the world that I have visited and in Canada where I live.

I have written six books that have been published and three more about to be published and I was one of the 22 persons who compiled the first edition of the Gage Canadian Dictionary. Further four of my articles and stories are published in four anthologies and seven of my papers on law are published in journals. I also taught English to Greek students and given lectures to law students and given at least 20 speeches around the world. I am recognized as a wordsmith which means that I am both a fluent and a prolific writer.

I am not trying to brag about my exploits but instead merely bringing these facts to you to emphasize that I am qualified to find fault with the manner in which many people speak the English language and that is what this article is all about—flawed speaking.

I have listened to hundreds of conversations in conferences and hundreds of conversations on the radio and on TV. I am amazed at the terrible flaws that these people make in their conversations with others. They all share the same flaws in their manner of speaking. What follows are seven major flaws that are extremely common in the manner in which a great many people foolishly use them in their spoken words.

mmm  ah  ahh.

What follows is sentence spoken by a police officer on TV.  He was answering a question.

“The fugitive mmm Johnathan Smith has been on the loose for mmm ten days now. He was last seen in mmm a town close to Seattle.” unquote

Obviously he wasn’t sure of the fugitive’s name and needed to pause for a moment to try and remember his name or how long the man had been loose.  The same goes for the town the fugitive was last seen at.                                                                                  

What follows is a statement made by a sheriff.

“The two men are Ah William Hanson and Ahh Robert Davis.” unquote

There are two reasons why this sheriff used those two flaws in his statement. The first reason is that he forgot their names because he was nervous or was thinking of something else while speaking and the second reason was he didn’t want anyone to interject into his statement during those two pauses he made in his statement. 


I hear this word quite often when people are speaking. There are times when the word is used properly in a sentence, For example, it is used properly in this following sentence.

Basically, there is only one reason why that medicine is effective.” 

The word is used instead of the word ‘primarily’ but either word is OK in a sentence like that one because it puts an emphasis on the fact that there is only one reason why the medicine is effective. The use of the word ‘basically’ is a means of displaying the importance of the statement.

Here is how it should not be used.

“And then what I did was basically drove back to the gas station where I then basically picked up my wallet I left on the counter.

you know

This is one of the worst flaws I have ever heard spoken in conversations. Now there are times when those two works are OK when spoke in conversation. Here is an example.

“As you know, that newspaper has a bad reputation of not telling like it is.” unquote

If the person being spoken to is aware that the newspaper doesn’t tell it like it is and the speaker knows this for a fact then the speaker is merely reconfirming his belief that the person being spoken to still has that belief. The use of you know in that sentence is quite properly used.

Here is an example when it wasn’t properly used. This sports person spoke the words you know four times in one sentence.

“I think, you know that anyone who, you know, takes drugs to enhance his you know performance should not be permitted you know to remain in our profession.” unquote

He actually used the words you know fifteen times in four paragraphs and not once did those words play a necessary part in the statement he made.

On July 1, 2015, I was listening to a broadcast from Australia. A horrific car accident was being described by five witnesses. One of them said the following.  “The small car moved into the oncoming lane and you know, the driver saw a car heading towards it so the small car, you know swerved to the right and you know was crushed under the wheels of the transport truck.” unquote

All five witnesses when describing what they saw, used the two-word phrase, you know more than once when describing what they saw. There is no way that I as a listener who was half way around the world listening to them speaking could have known what they were describing before they stated on the radio what they saw so the two-word phrase, you know was totally unnecessary.

I have listened to many people speaking on television and I am amazed at how many people use those two words unnecessarily. They include politicians, entertainers, sports people and ordinary people. The only people I haven’t heard using those words is President Obama, newscasters and people in commercials. Admittedly, when some politicians are giving a prepared speech and they aren’t deviating from the prepared speech,  those two words not used because their speech writers know how silly those words would be when spoken unnecessarily.           

There are two reasons why these people have used those two words. The first one was that they aren’t sure of what they are going to say next as their minds wandered a bit. The second reason is an interesting one. By saying you know, it is a subliminal way of convincing the persons spoken to that the speaker is right in what he or she is saying. It is a means of reinforcing the person spoken to into believing that the speaker is right in what he or she is saying. After all, in the minds of the speakers, don’t the recipients of the comments already know the facts to be true?

I once severely chastised an acquaintance who was a guest in my home during a party we were having. What follows is part of our conversation.

HIM:  “As you know, he was drunk when he left your house and….”

ME:   “Why did you say that I know that he was drunk? I didn’t know that he was drunk and I resent your suggestion that I knew he was drunk when he left my home.”

He explained that he was merely using those two words as a figure of speech. As you can see, it is a poor figure of speech when used improperly.

I heard a person on the radio use those two words 22 times in a three-minute conversation.


I don’t know why that word is placed at the beginning of a spoken sentence. There are only two definitions of the word well. The first is a hole in the ground where water or oil is retrieved. In that instance, the word is a noun. The second is a means of expressing one’s thoughts about someone or something and used thusly, “well advised, well-behaved, well built,” etc. In those instances, that word that is part of the other words is what makes them an adjective. The word Well should not be used as the introduction of a sentence. Here is an example in which a person is answering a question put to him.

Well for one thing, I don’t believe him.” unquote

The word can only be a noun or an adjective and it is neither when placed at the beginning of a sentence. It serves no purpose whatsoever. It is silly to use it.


That word is an adverb and often used wrongly at the beginning of a sentence by many people. The word refers to the present time. Here is an example when it could be used wrongly. 

Now did you understand why I said that?” The word “did” is used in the past tense and the word, “Now” is used in the present tense. You can see how silly that sentence becomes by placing the word “Now” in the beginning of the sentence.

If the speaker wanted to determine if the person he is speaking to understood what he (the speaker) said previously, he could ask the question in a different way such as; “Do you now understand why I said that?”

Here is another example when it is wrongly used.

Now the moon is quite big compared to other moons in space.”

The speaker doesn’t have to place the word Now in front of the sentence because the moon didn’t just become bigger than other moons in space. It has always been bigger than some other moons in space.

I mean

I hear these two words quite often in sentences. Here is an example.

“I saw the accident and I mean, it didn’t have to happen.”

Why does the speaker want his listener to know that he means that he didn’t think the accident should have happened? The fact that he saw the accident and states that it didn't have to happen is suffice without telling the listener that the person making the statement that he really means what he is saying. 

Here is an example when it would apply. "I think he is a damn fool, I mean that he acts rather silly most of the time." 

Look 0r listen

Many times   people will preface a sentence with this  word such as;  "Look. This is what really happened." 

It is another way of saying. "Listen to what I am about to say." 

It really is silly to preface a sentence with the word Look unless you are saying something like this; "Look at this book." 


I hear people putting that word into a sentence when that word has no legitimate place in some of their sentences such as, "I am of the opinion, like he didn't do it." 

Here comes a case of overuse of the word, like. Yulia Efimova, an Olympic swimmer in the Olymic Games in Rio in 2016. who was answering a question about another swimmer. 

She said, ""I'm like last four years training in the USA. I have been in Russia just like one month a year.I don't know what's going in Russia, Now they like try to do, they like can find a way how they can like beat Russia. 


I will admit that there have been times when I have slipped up and made flaws in my statements but it rarely happens because I know how foolish such statements will appear to educated persons listening to me.

Whenever I hear people making the flaws I have described in this article, be they on the radio, TV or on stage or anywhere else, I am amused especially when educated people make those silly flaws in their conversations with others.  If I hear a few flaws in someone’s statement, I say to myself, “oh oh.” When I hear lots of them in a statement, I say to myself “WOW!” That person is really grammatically uneducated.”

As you are listening to conversations or statements made off the cuff, listen for those flaws. You will find it amusing when you are hearing them. 

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