Thirteen Verbal Ticks That Really Bug Me

by Steve, June 7th, 2007

I was raised by two English majors, so you’ll have to cut me some slack here. I’ve always been a stickler for proper speech. There’s a time and a place for colloquialism, and lord knows I use it in my speech and writing.

But there are some verbal ticks that just really bug me. I’ll see if I can come up with 13.

1. “Yeah, no…” I’m not sure where this came in, but it’s a meaninglessly self-contradictory interjection used to start sentences in conversation. I hear it all the freakin’ time at work, and it drives me nuts. I worry I’ll start using it. Maybe I already have.

2. “The thing is, is…” I’ve even heard the variant “The thing was, is…”

3. “I mean…” This one I hear all the damn time on NPR when a news anchor is talking to a reporter. It’s the new “you know,” I guess. The irony is, is, I mean, it has no damn meaning. Okay, fine, use it in everyday speech. But if you’re on National Public Radio? I mean, Come on!

4. Upspeak. This is when topic sentences? or clauses? are inflected as questions. It’s residue of valley girl talk, and as the valley girl generation has grown up, it’s become common in adult speech. I think of it as a solicitous tick, as in “Are you listening? I think I have something to say?” Our local NPR affiliate’s morning anchor does this, and it drives me crazy.

5.”Uh.” Practically everyone says “uh” in everyday speech. No big deal. But when the Secretary of State of the United States of America can’t speak a single extemporaneous sentence without uttering it, I cringe.

6. “…for Jack and I.” Or the equally jarring “…for Jack and myself.” For whatever reason, nobody wants to say “Jack and me”. Me is a proper object, people, I can’t emphasize this enough.

7. This one’s common among stewardesses for some reason: “If you do need to leave your seat, we do ask that you do buckle your seat belt when you return.” We ask that you do omit needless words.

Okay, I guess that’s all I can come up with off the top of my head. Apologies to the Thursday Thirteen crowd for punking out early.

8 Responses to “Thirteen Verbal Ticks That Really Bug Me”

  1. Comment from witch dr:

    listen, the Germans say something like “donk” instead of ‘uh’! I was trying to think of something to add to your list but it’s just not coming. the hour is late. 7 is a lucky # tho!

  2. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    Um. Y’know, when my husband, like, makes fun of me? For my West Coast accent? Heh heh heh. You crack me up. Yes, please, to all of this.

  3. Comment from Drew:

    Very amusing. I do some of those at times and then want to kick myself afterwards. Tonight someone said to me, “Me and her done been seperated for two day. She livin’ back up there with her mama.” He didn’t have a problem saying me.

  4. Comment from Matt:

    I doubt any human being could hit the nail on the head more than you have with this shortened thirteen. I salute you in particular for numbers 1 and 4.

    #1 – How does a person develop the habit of contradicting themselves at the outset of every statement? I am particularly impressed by the cognitive gymnastics that are required when a person takes the next step into “Yeah, no, yeah. We plan to….” At some point that person must just admit that their speech no longer has meaning.

    #4 – This one is interesting because I think it stems for serial lack of self esteem. People make statements that sound like questions because they don’t have courage of their convictions or (more frequently) they don’t have self-confidence. After having really watched people who do this, I think it is the verbal equivalent of not making eye contact.

    Once again, fantastic post.

  5. Comment from Redheaded Stepchild:

    One phrase in particular has been getting on my nerves, although when used by stuffy suit-types it can be funny. Picture Dubya, as he leaves office-

    “My bad…”

  6. Comment from Himself:

    I’ll have to do another one about slang that bugs me. “My bad” is kind of weird, but I used in in a hockey game just today. The first time I used it on my wife, she thought I was asking “Am I bad?” and responded “Yes.”

  7. Comment from Shelley:

    My bugaboo is “I could care less.” No, you couldn’t care less; if you could care less, then you do care. Arg!

  8. Comment from sivatmin:

    I am so glad to have found your site. I HATE verbal ticks myself. In fact, I think that I stand out at work because I try my hardest to eliminate them. Therefore, I am always asked to speak in front of people. They say I sound “brainy.” When I have to listen to someone with extreme verbal ticks, I tune out. Another pet-peeve I have is email and blog writings. People need to be aware of their writing skills. Some of things people say cannot be understood because of their poor writing skills. So, if they’re trying to make an intellectual point, it becomes irrevelant due to the pitiful writing skills. Thanks so much!