Why do we, like, hesitate when we, um, speak?

For as long as we’ve had language, some people have tried to control it. And some of the most frequent targets of this communication regulation are the ums, ers, and likes that pepper our conversations. These linguistic fillers occur roughly 2 to 3 times per minute in natural speech. So are ums and uhs just a habit we can’t break? Or is there more to them? Lorenzo García-Amaya investigates.

Why we say OK

I’ve got a feeling that LOL will also stand the test of time 🙂

The ghosts of technology in today’s language

I like this post by Marcin Wichary in which he looks for remnant expressions in our language which are based on technologies that no longer exist, but that we still use. A typical example is “dialing a number”.

We dial a number — or dial someone — even though dials disappeared from phones decades ago. And we hang up even though there’s rarely a handset that actually needs to be hung up.

The ghosts of technology in today’s language →

L’esprit de l’escalier

Now this sounds familiar:

“L’esprit de l’escalier” is a French term used in English for the predicament of thinking of the perfect reply too late.

According to Wikipedia:

During a dinner at the home of statesman Jacques Necker, a remark was made to Denis Diderot which left him speechless at the time, because, he explains, “a sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument levelled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again [when he reaches] the bottom of the stairs”.

To have reached the bottom of the stairs, here, means to have left the gathering/conversation.

L’esprit de l’escalier →