30 days of beautiful: using words

I read a lot of articles addressing those 20-somethings, generation y, and millennials. Occasionally there’s something refreshingly realistic. Other times, the words are tempered and thoughtful articulations of the environment that raised the young people of today. It’s rare that I get offended. I think many of them actually have a point (except this one is excessively patronizing). Sometimes, however, I do go into overload. Come on! We’re not all that bad/naive/selfish.

Yet, despite the overload, here I am, wanting to add another piece of commentary for my contemporaries. You better believe that I hold myself to this advice as well: Y’all, we need to use our words. But actually, we need to use our words with spaces in between, with pauses, with silences.

I’ll explain:

I was on the subway in New York last year when a group of 20-something students got on at the Columbia stop and proceeded to have a conversation. I gathered that they were going down to Queens to volunteer with Hurricane Sandy relief, so not only were they upstanding, smart college students by appearances but they were also humanitarians.

Their conversation was painful to hear, though. 

The words and phrases


“you know,”

“or whatever”

peppered the conversation so overpoweringly, I was distracted from what they were actually talking about. All I remember is their unwitting use of filler words in every sentence they uttered. 

I was riding the train, you know, and I had been thinking about, like, all the Hurricane Sandy victims and I was really moved, or whatever.

What was it like, again? What does or whatever even mean? 

This group was an extreme example but I’d venture to say, many of us are guilty of filling sentences with some such words.

My choice word is “like.” It sneaks into my hesitations, and instead of stopping my tongue and allowing silence when I don’t know what to say, I prompt my brain with it. I prompt my brain with meaningless words that fill space and air and sound. It makes me, you, us, as a generation, sound thoughtless, inarticulate. I’m striving now to stop myself from like, you know, using words that don’t actually have a purpose in my sentence, or whatever. If you’re anything like me, I dare you to, too.  Allow a breath, a pause, a piece of silence in your sentences. It’s ok to hesitate. The steady stream of words can wait until we know what we have to say. 

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