Saturday, February 28, 1998 at 14:08:09

I am a South African/Brit dual nationality, currently living in Asia.   Have lived in many countries. Anyway, I have strong ties with England. Recently, I was lucky to experience the life of British aristocracy in both London and the English countryside,, and one thing which struck me was the constant use of the word "um". If you listen to any of Princess Diana's, off the cuff speeches or Prince Charles or even Fergie (definitely not the same class) you will find the word "um" very frequently used. The question is "Is the usage manifested in insecurities, or is it used to appear less formidable to the man in the street?" I have my theory.

- TF

I haven't really noticed the use of filled pauses by the aristocracy.  Since I live in Japan the only samples of their speech which make international news tends to be scripted material.  You suggest two different possible reasons for their behavior:   1) insecurity, and 2) to develop solidarity with commoners.  I don't think I can comment on 1 since I know very little about the aristocracy from either a personal or cultural perspective. However, the latter hypothesis, I think, has promise.  There is some evidence to suggest that filled pauses assist in developing ethos between conversational participants.  It sounds less formal and therefore less intimidating.   To the commoner who perceives the aristocrat as being formal and staid (as at televised events) this may be very welcome.  Thus we might hear of such an encounter "...I found him to be very personable and warm."

I'm curious to know what your theory is since you have 'the inside story' as it were.

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