back to article Erm... what did you say again, dear reader?

Have you ever uttered the sound "erm" while speaking? More to the point, have you ever erm'd when answering politicians' questions during a scrutiny panel session? If you have, says one Reg commentard, you are bastardising the English language. Oh yes. Turn your eyes, dear reader, to our writeup of the London Assembly's …

  1. jake Silver badge

    Re: More of a "well reasoned if, erm, somewhat stuffy complaint of the week"

    Nope. Just plain old "amanfromMars". July 5th, 2007 to April 29th, 2009. RIP

    Why do people here, supposedly computer nerds, have such a hard time understanding that CAPS aren't there just to look pretty?

  2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

    Re: More of a "well reasoned if, erm, somewhat stuffy complaint of the week"

    Now look here jAKE, hoo are you U calling a NERD!

    Unless it's *nix or a password I couldn't give a monkey's about CAPS :P

  3. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge


    It's new and has a department. It fits anywhere, particularly in the pause whilst I'm waiting. It's also become a thing in other situations, discussed on the radio, TV broadcast, in newspapers, at the bank, top of the charts and first in school. On the end of a cheque or in the tips jar. Mark my words. #cognitivevelocity

  4. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

    Re: #cognitivevelocity

    Balls, youth calling. TLDR and didn't listen as it wasn't a tweet. I'll have you on Wittgenstein,

    I think its something to do with German language structure on English plus if you fiddle with the nuance in the translations, you can sort of see what he was getting at.

    The problem is no-one has clue what you're on about half-time. #newlist #MCBigPopper

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My good sir

    this must be the bestest trollmaster of the AD 2018!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've never heard anyone, English, American, or otherwise, say "erm". It would sound so bizarre to hear it.

    It's the "r". People say "um" or "uh" or "ugh". Another commenter suggested it's meant to indicate a lengthening of the vowel - but that's better done by writing it as "uhm" or "umm" or even "uhmm".

    I know in non-rhotic pronunciations an "r" preceding a consonant works to alter a vowel rather than making a true "r" sound on its own, but applying this to "erm" feels severely wrong, because if it is truly a word, then you'd expect Americans to pronounce it exactly like that - with a full "r" sound in the middle. But nobody does that, except in parody (see Mayor Quimby, or the ghost of Kennedy in the Simpsons.)

    So the word is "uhm", or "ehm", and you can throw in a few extra "h" if you must, but it's not "erm". I'd slap anyone who actually says "erm".

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You need to get out more. :-)

  8. the Jim bloke Bronze badge

    I use "erm" myself, It follows the evolution of coherent thought path rediscovered every morning after a couple of coffees..

    -Talk like a zombie. "urrrrrr"

    -Talk like a pirate. "Arrrr"

    -the beginning of cognition "erm"

    -rejection, "whatever"

  9. David Roberts Silver badge


    Is where the 'art is.

  10. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

    Re: Erm

    That dialect is a travesty to all clean thinking persons :P

  11. jake Silver badge

    To erm is human ...

    ... 'tis most benign.

  12. Someone Else Silver badge

    @David Roberts, @jake -- Re: To erm is human ...

    Look what ya went and made me do! ----->

    Stop it! Da bodayews!

  13. Stevie Silver badge

    Re: To erm is human ...

    'Tis a consummation devoutly to be washed.

  14. Someone Else Silver badge

    Dear Norman-

    I see your post as a solicitation for a job at some National Language Purity Ministry somewhere. Good luck wid' dat! That last such place I heard of like that was in Nazi Germany, and we all know how well that turned out. Oh, I forgot...there's always L'Académie française...but then you'd have to learn French, an endeavor that probably wouldn't fit your proclivities. So I guess you're shit out of luck, then.

  15. Mike 137

    Hrummmpfff - A personal view

    'Erm', 'like', 'sort of', 'yerno' and several partners are usually introduced when the brain has run a bit behind the delivery - they're essentially fillers to avoid a pause that might cause an interlocutor to think one had finished speaking. The primary cause of their increasing prevalence is the cultural demand for immediate response without preparation, resulting in the need to formulate the idea while it's being expounded.

    I've known of a few excellent lucid speakers who, when asked a question, habitually paused perceptibly to formulate their response before speaking.

    As one who speaks quiet often in public, I've developed a technique for eliminating these interjections from one's delivery - record yourself live. When you play the recording back, every time you hear one of them, repeat it aloud immediately. Eventually, you'll condition yourself to pre-empt them mentally.

  16. Charles Wolfe

    Linguists have proven that terms such "erm", "ugh" and a few others are common to all languages -- speakers employ them while putting together sentences in "real time". They have no particular meaning, they are "placeholders" in conversation.

    The suggestion to stick to old English is interesting. That has not been the common form of English for several centuries. Does he actually read and speak old English? He seems to write Modern English fairly well.

  17. ICPurvis47

    Pet hates.

    I have three main pet hates in the english language - 'got', 'of', and 'di-sect'.

    'Got' is a weed, which worms its way into the cracks in the language. The only valid use of 'got' is as past tense of 'to get'. It has for a very long time become an indication of necessity, as in "I have got to go to the bank". Leaving out 'got' results in "I have to go to the bank", which means exactly the same as the previous attempt. If more urgency is required, try "I must go to the bank".

    I blame the Specsavers advertising campaign for the corruption of 'should have' to 'should've', which by back formation has become 'should of'. Several younger members of my family, plus assorted uneducated friends, use 'of' in place of 'have' at all opportunities - 'could of', 'should of', 'would of', 'might of', etc. etc., ad nauseam. I became so incensed some time ago that I even wrote to Specsavers to ask them to desist and have their adverts rerecorded using the proper term 'should have'. They declined for some inexplicable reason.

    Where did that abomination 'di-sect' come from? The word is 'dissect', with two esses. Other double ess words do not appear to have been similarly bastardised - dissociate, dissemble, dissent, etc., so why has dissect been selected for this treatment? Many a TV police drama series has been ruined by the Medical Examiner (Yes, you, Ducky) saying that he was going to 'di-sect' the body that has been placed on his table. GRRRRRR!!!!!!

    But my overwhelming all time hate is the use of the term 'Engineer' to describe a technician, who definitely does not have the qualifications to use that moniker. The latest offering from British Gas (ptooi!) says that they have 6000 'Engineers' waiting to service your gas appliance. NO they haven't. They may well have 6000 trained gas fitters, but not one of them has a BSc., BA., or other higher education qualification. I am afraid that an NVQ in Gas Fitting does not qualify them to call themselves 'Engineers' Honestly, the country is going to the dogs.


  18. jake Silver badge

    Re: Pet hates.

    You have got to be kidding.

    got in this case implies an obligation or necessity. It is correct English.

  19. ICPurvis47

    Re: Pet hates.

    I'm sorry, Jake, but you are wrong. The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'got' as 'the past participle of to get', and no other definition. Admittedly, some more modern dictionaries list it as 'indicating the imperative', but the OED is the definitive source of the English Language, and as such takes precedence.

  20. Someone Else Silver badge

    @ICPurvis47 -- Re: Pet hates.

    Are you Norman?

    Perhaps you are simply simply projecting Norman's Saxon snobbery, but here in the Colonies at least, dī-ˈsekt is the preferred pronunciation of the word 'dissect' (See for yourself, you can actually push the button and hear it spoken with a perfectly loverly Midwest American accent.)

  21. jake Silver badge

    Re: Pet hates.

    My BigDic[0], under "have", states Have and have got: there is a great deal of debate on the difference between these two forms; a traditional view is that have got is chiefly British and then goes on to state that "have got" isn't used in formal writing, implying that it's perfectly acceptable for informal use.

    [0] OED2, dead tree version. Yes, all 20 volumes + supplements. Wedding present from my in-laws. I have got to remember to thank them again ...

  22. Jan 0

    Re: @ICPurvis47 -- Pet hates.

    dī-ˈsekt may be a preferred pronunciation, but it is illiterate and doesn't make sense.

    Dissect(ion) is a concatenation of 'dis' and 'sect(ion)';

    Compare it with 'disconnect' or 'discombobulate. Why not say 'di-sconnect' or 'di-scombobulate'?

  23. Someone Else Silver badge

    @Jan 0 -- Re: @ICPurvis47 -- Pet hates.

    Perhaps you should learn what the word "illiterate" means. Something defined in a standard dictionary cannot be illiterate, by definition. However, someone asserting that a thing defined in a dictionary is illiterate might be.

  24. Denise HC

    ESN programme director

    ESN used to mean "Educationally Sub-normal"..........

  25. PC Paul

    Words are hard

    I was going to take you to task over using arrogate instead of abrogate but decided to double check myself. It turns out they are both words and you used arrogate quite correctly - I must have learned both meanings assuming they referred to the same word.

    So the ESN guy abrogated (repealed, annulled, cancelled)the original shutdown timescale, or would have if it had been part of a formal treaty or the like rather than the vague hope we all knew it was. And then you wisely avoided arrogating (laying claim without justification) a lack of knowledge to him.

    Nicely done. I've been told.

  26. Paul A. Walker

    I'd wager this chap is a full-on gammon. There's a modern idiom he won't approve of either.


POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018