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Author Topic: word ticks
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Something I thought we could discuss is what I call "word ticks" -- such as "ya know" among teenagers, and "what!" among gouty old English gentlemen. Words people say (often at the ends of their sentences) unconsciously and repeatedly. They may not know why they say them, and I'm not entirely sure about why either.

I know someone who tends to end every sentence with "and everything," and I submit that's another example of a "word tick."

I recently took a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training class, and after a while, I noticed that the instructor would say "out of it" over and over again, so I decided that it was his "word tick."

Word ticks can be useful (as long as they are used much less often than people use them normally--less is more in this case) to help you characterize your different characters' speech. They can be especially helpful if you want a character to be a little (remember, less is more) annoying--to the reader as well as to the other characters.

So, anyone notice any other "word ticks," either that you've heard other people say or that you've been accused of using yourself?

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MartinV
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"...and whatever."?
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Robert Nowall
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I've noticed I use "anyway" in conversation quite a bit. Anyway, I try not to use it when I'm writing, even if I'm writing dialog.

I can't say if anybody's ever noticed it...if they have, they haven't said so.

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Robert Nowall
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For some reason, I'm reminded of a short passage in Robert Graves's I, Claudius or Claudius, the God---not sure which---which speaks of phrases some of the characters used. Of course the characters are also all historical figures, and I think Graves picked up a couple of them from historical sources.

The one I remember was the Emperor Augustus saying "as quick as boiled asparagus," which is a lift from a work purportedly by Seneca (and tacked on to the end of Claudius the God). I assume it's a translation from the reportedly Latinized Greek of the original---I don't have that text in front of me (and couldn't read it anyway.)

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EVOC
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quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:
I know someone who tends to end every sentence with "and everything," and I submit that's another example of a "word tick."

I have a coworker who says "and everything" after every sentence. And now that I notice it, it drives me crazy. Before I picked up on it, didn't bother me. But now I notice it.

I think that is problem with word ticks in writing. After a little bit the reader will become annoyed with it. Just as I have with my coworker. And if you use it less often, or maybe just few times. It doesn't have the same "word tick" effect.

I remember reading a book and the author mentioned that one character noticed the word tick, though he never actually said it in dialogue. I spent the whole book wondering when I would see it, and how it was relevant to the character or the story.

I suppose the best use of word ticks would be subtle to the point that many readers might not notice, but it still becomes part of the character's voice.

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tesknota
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Like. Inserted at various points in every sentence.

Drives me NUTS.

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Robert Nowall
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I know a guy---well, several people, actually---where every other word is the "F" word. I don't even think they know they're doing it...
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rcmann
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Ronald Reagan used to preface every other sentence wit the word 'well'. As in, "Well, I intend to balance the budget by conjuring money out of thin air," etc. A lot of people use that one. Also 'Well now,' is a popular variation.
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Melanie Vera
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I have noticed a few like Freak and Yeppers.
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babooher
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I had a class mention that I use the phrase "you sit there" quite a bit. "You sit there, and you look for these things first," or "You sit there asking for extra credit while not getting the normal work done."

You sit there at your computer screen judging but it was a hard habit to break.

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Crystal Stevens
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I didn't know until a co-worker pointed it out that I have a problem when I agree with someone to say, "Tell me about it." Up to then, I wasn't even aware of it. I told a good friend about it, and she said that was one of my most endearing qualities and was a part of my character that made me, me. LOL
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hoptoad
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"absolutely" instead of "yes" drives me crazy
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Melanie Vera
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"What the Heck" another big one used
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extrinsic
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I know these word tick things as discourse markers, a form of interjection part of speech. They serve as verbal pauses to hold the speaking floor while gathering wool: thinking about what to say. They also may call attention to what's to come, emphasize, signal a change in topic or thought, signal hesitation, or represent an in-group dialectical convention. They may be nonsensical, have no meaning; they may have limited meaning, and perhaps have one meaning or convention in one region, a different meaning or convention in another region, or be meaningless in one region and be meaningful in another.

Uh is one of the most common discourse markers; meaning nothing, but signaling thought, hesitation, or a deliberate or unintentional verbal pause.

Uh-huh and huh-uh mean yes and no, respectively, in standard U.S. dialect usage, though um-huh and uh-uhm and other variations may be used in different regions.

Now is one discourse marker I encounter often in my editing work. It's used for emphasis, to call attention to a change in subject direction, as well as hesitance and wool gathering.

Now, on the other topic, backing up to your damage claim, did you mean your shoulder injury is included as part of your neck injury from the accident?

Right and all right serve similarly.

One that I find unique to written word is unconventional usage of alot or alright. They will elicit correction from prescriptive grammarians. I will mark them as unconventional but also consider them as signals of their users' writing discipline.

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hoptoad
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quote:
signals of their users' writing discipline
[Eek!]
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babooher
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While I would argue that "alot" is not a word, I'd also argue that "alright" has a different meaning than "all right."

If a person asks how a class did answering an essay question, there is a marked difference between "They were all right," and "They were alright." The first explains that all the students answered correctly while the second illustrates a lackluster performance.

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extrinsic
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"Alot" is not a word according to Webster's; however, its frequent use in publications of all sorts may soon make it a word, according to precedent of etymology.

"All right" and "alright," on the other hand, are both in dictionaries and are identical in meaning, though "alright" may signal a variant nuance.

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LDWriter2
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
I've noticed I use "anyway" in conversation quite a bit. Anyway, I try not to use it when I'm writing, even if I'm writing dialog.

I can't say if anybody's ever noticed it...if they have, they haven't said so.

It took me a while to get back to this but I do the same thing, especially in writing notes and posts.
And I also don't know if anyone notices.

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LDWriter2
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quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:
Ronald Reagan used to preface every other sentence wit the word 'well'. As in, "Well, I intend to balance the budget by conjuring money out of thin air," etc. A lot of people use that one. Also 'Well now,' is a popular variation.

Me too. Even though not quite like Reagan did and I can't conjure money from thin air like he did(no sarcasm there) but some times it seems like it's my second or third favorite word to use.
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LDWriter2
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:

"All right" and "alright," on the other hand, are both in dictionaries and are identical in meaning, though "alright" may signal a variant nuance.

I like to use alright but my spellcheckers usually do not like it.
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enigmaticuser
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Hmm, now I'm thinking about ticks I've given my characters without even think that was their function. I have a "well" user. I'll probably keep them as they provide some color, but I think as the narrator doesn't give them meaning you can drop them off. Like how a person's chewing probably doesn't get louder, but depending on the circumstance someone might not be able to think of anything else.

Wandering into speculative territory. I wonder if political correctness is creating more of it. For example, men are often encouraged to hedge their statements with "I believe/I think/In my opinion" as a way to soften possible aggressive appearance, but since the words mean nothing other than to soften the discussion, aren't those kind of word ticks?

I suppose there's more than one interpretation. "Uh" could be gathering wool or it might be just that the speaker likes the sound of it. Well, sounds like a good warm up for a sentence to me.

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hoptoad
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I have a character who pauses to gather his thoughts when he speaks and does not fill the space with an 'um', or an 'aah'. It means he often gets cut-off mid sentence. Consequently he is frustrated that people seem to not care about what he thinks.
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Reziac
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"Basically" has become a tick across SoCal.

I use the initial "Well" as well.

My MC uses "I mean" and a trailing "is all" when he's trying to explain himself. I've attempted to learn him better but he just mumbles something incoherent.

1960s article on hippiespeak was called "Like, I mean, you know, right?"

I agree with enigmaticuser about how now everything is "just your opinion" as a form of enforced PC. [Frown]

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InarticulateBabbler
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I know a guy who says "turn 'round" at every pause. It's funny, the wife and I used to say if we obeyed, we'd be so dizzy we'd have fallen down three times during a conversation.
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