Tuesday, August 21, 2007

sort of, kind of, myself... blah blah blah at the office

I'm not sure how many of you have noticed this in the workplace and then on TV (and perhaps catching yourself doing it). Instead of using "um" as filler... and before I launch into this diatribe completely, don't use UM. Just don't. Say nothing instead of um. It makes you sound nervous and sometimes (depending on how often you say it in a certain amount of time) incompetent. No one needs to do that to him or herself.

Ok, so "sort of". I noticed this earlier this year on the Today show (NBC) where the hosts like Matt Lauer or Ann (I forget her last name) say "sort of" and then I noticed a LOT of their guests would use sort of.

I started a new job in June and noticed the entire office is infected with the sort-of disease. Statements like, "[Name] could you sort of compile those list of deliverables for me and kind of, you know, send it to the group?" or "What we're sort of trying to accomplish here is, sort of like more innovative spin on the existing project, and sort of trying to keep it within certain parameters."

I'm not kidding. These aren't made up examples.

I went to a meeting where inside of the first hour, which was a presentation to a room full of clients, the main speaker said "sort of" 157 times. By the end of the presentation, all staff members from my company said "sort of" 427 times and "kind of" a mere 204 times. If I had the time and wasn't trying to pay attention, I'd have counted how many real words were used also. I'm sure it was far more real words than filler, but you get the point.

Once you notice people saying "sort of" or "kind of" you can't turn it off. You'll notice that most people are using what I like to call 'socially accepted white noise filler'. Everyone is in silent agreement that they won't notice this and we all do it.

I've caught myself doing this a number of times. The longer I work here, the more I start to sound like them and it's driving me up a wall.

If you catch others doing it or yourself, please let me know how you deal. If I've just pointed it out to you and now you can't tune it out. I'm sorry. Welcome to my world.

PS one other thing I've noticed, and I'm less certain this is grammar-suicide... the use of "myself" in place of using "me" or "I". I believe this increasing use of "myself" is to cover those who don't know when to use "me" or "I" -- which often tends to be people that use "I" when they should use "me" because they think it makes them sound more sophisticated. If you know what you should say or should hear, then you (like me) just think the other person is a wanker.

Most recent example is "name, name, and myself will attend the session." I'm pretty darn sure it should be "name, name, and I will attend." Or it could go "Will you invite name and me?"

I know people really want to say "Will you invite name and I?" but you need a direct object. I is a subject, me is a direct object for these examples.


*sigh* okay, I feel better now.

The above was typed in here on 21-Aug-07, and today is 28-Oct-07. I've been thinking about it almost daily (still) for a year or two at least, and have decided to comment it in writing twice.

I've begun to wonder what we're all so afraid of. What happened to English-speaking peoples, in particular Americans. Although I've heard it when I went to Toronto and I'm sure there are plenty of Canadians who think that Toronto is too closely 'related' to the States anyway. And I've heard British celebs on US and UK TV say it, too.)

Why can't we just say what we mean? Or is it that we don't mean anything? Why do we couch anything that is an opinion or statement with a weak pretext like 'sort of' or 'kind of'. Are we afraid the government is going to hear us and come get us; deport us from our own country? Are we afraid of being sued for saying something incorrect, scandalous or irresponsible? What is it? I know it's something. This is too pervasive to be nothing, and yet seems to be happening without questioning why.

There's something in the fabric of American culture, I'm guessing it's American, that is showing up in this way. Have we lost our self-confidence? Is it the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq (potentially Iran)? Is it the weakening ties the US has with other world nations? Is it our lack of buying power when compared to China and India? Is it our reduced voice in the UN? Is it our weak dollar? Our potentially re-rivalry with Russia? Or is it that we just talk too much and really have nothing meaningful to say, so we say lots of filler for the sake of hearing our own voices?

I don't know exactly so I'll keep mulling this over. In the meantime this filler language which is accepted as okay plus the warming of the fall and winter seasons in New York is worrying me daily.

1 comment:

Khalid said...

I know EXACTLY what you mean and it's driving me crazy. This constant use of "sort of" as a filler is really annoying AND contagious.

In fact, I wanted to find out if anybody else noticed this trend and that's how I picked up your article via a search engine, so I'm glad I'm not totally alone. But I guess we're gonna have to suffer with this for years to come. Uff.