Tuesday, March 3, 1998 at 00:46:17

I enjoyed your site very much. Congratulations on the Netscape What's Cool? site listing. I particularly liked your page about your, um, dad.  I'm sure he appreciated your thoughtful analysis.  I was also interested in your comments about occurences in Japanese and use by second-language speakers.  I once had a Chinese Politics professor (uh, that's a Chinese-American, who taught Chinese Politics), who would end every other sentence with "and-a-so-on...and-a-so-fort".  I used to tally his "so-fort" score in the margins of my note page-- to the point where I would forget to take notes on the class, itself (I didn't do well in the class).

I also had an Organic Chemistry professor (African national, who spoke VERY proper British-English), who would constantly begin his sentences with the phrase "One saaaayyyyzzz..."  (rhymes with "blaze", not "Pez", in an up-down-up melodic tone).  He would draw out this "saayyyzzz" for about three or four seconds, as if to say "whatever I am about to say, after I can think of something reeeaaalllyyy good to say, will be extremely profound".  It was usually accompanied by either a light scratch on the forehead or a gentle rubbing of the chin (as if in deep thought).  The first time I heard him say it (with the odd [uh, that is, un-American] pronunciation and the musical quality), I looked around the lecture hall to see if others thought it was also sorta funny/strange.  The lecture hall held about 300 students-- at least 100 were bending across their desks, whispering something funny to their neighbors.

One more thing... uh,... I speak conversational German (only partially fluent-- I have lost alot of fluency from lack of practice over the years).  I am particularly enamored with a very special prolonged filler in German: "sssso!"  It sounds like a slithering snake's "ssssss", followed by an extremely succinct "o!" at the end, cutting everthing off EXTREMELY abruptly.  It is usually equivelent to "well!" in English, like when someone finishes a chore and lets out a mildly exhaustive "well!"-- meaning, "Boy, I'm glad that's done!").  --It formally translates to mean "therefore" and is used that way in normal conversation.  I swear, some Germans use this word like it's going outta style. It's used in both two-way conversation and while talking to oneself.  I think some people use it to actually say, "well, I'm done with that sentence, now here's another..."-- and most don't seem to recognize that they are saying it, just like our "umm" and "uhh".  My German mother-in-law says it all the time, mixed in with her English-- that's how ingrained it is!

Well, it looks like we may be cut from the same cloth-- maybe there's a speech-criticism gene....

- MW

Teachers and college professors are rich examples of idiosyncratic hesitation techniques.  A high school math teacher I had was well-known for all the different ums and uhs and so on that we invented a game to play during his class.  Using baseball as the basic structure we assigned batting results to his idiosyncracies:   shaking his finger when making a point was a hit, while a filled pause was a strike.  One person, would continue to tally up hits, runs, outs, until a half-inning was over.  And then the next person would continue tallying.  At the end of class we would compare scores. After a while the game became pretty exciting and players would begin to cheer or cry during class.  Now that I am a teacher, I can't help feeling a little self-conscious when I hear a little burst of unrelated laughter.  Am I now, perhaps, receiving my just desserts?

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Last Revised: 99/08/26

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