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. John Mangan

    Flame of the week?

    Much too well constructed and lacking the raging, slavering uncontrollable USE of RANDOM capital letters and an excessive provision of exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    6/10 - See me.

    1. Mycho Silver badge

      Re: Flame of the week?

      What a load of Milton Keynes.

      1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

        Re: Flame of the week?

        What a load of Milton Keynes.

        <Holly>A load of tottenham, that is. A steaming pile of hotspur.</Holly>

    2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Re: Flame of the week?

      A typical post by Bombastic Bob for example?

      Cheer up Bob, I'll treat you to a pint for your notoriety. =-D

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Flame of the week?

        Bob doesn't typically flame. He rants. Big difference.

        1. J. Cook Bronze badge

          Re: Flame of the week?

          Yeah. There were NOT ENOUGH CAPSLOCK in the rant and anti-obama/democrat/leftist boogeyman in the rant to implicate that he was the author.

          It's also possible that it was a master-class troll...

          *dons nomex suit and runs to the fire extinguisher storage bay*

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a splendid response. You should offer Norman a job.

    1. m0rt Silver badge

      I've missed FoTW.

      I agree with RichardT. Offer 'Norman' a job. A column, if you will. He can create a rant that mirrors, yet offsets, those with which I believe a one Alistair Dabbs dabbles (SWIDT?) with.

      I for one would consider turning off my add blocker, if you did.*

      * Lie.

      1. A K Stiles
        Headmaster

        You were doing so well...

        " those with which I believe a one Alistair Dabbs dabbles (SWIDT?) with"

        If only you had left off the last "with", you would have crafted a sentence of excellent structure. (Well, that and the errant "a" between "believe" and "one Alistair Dabbs" )

        I have to agree though, FoTW can provide some wonderful entertainment.

        [edited to remove the suggestion you still had time to edit your post as that time has now expired]

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You have something that blocks an 'add' operation? Doesn't that play merry hell with all your calculations and computations?

        Personally, I find my web browsing experience is improved by blocking advertisements (each of which is commonly known as an 'advert' or 'ad'.)

    2. The First Dave

      "What a splendid response. You should offer Norman a job."

      I disagree, piss poor show from someone who failed in any way to quote "you know" when it should have been.

  3. msknight Silver badge

    Forsooth!

    Aye! To olde English thee must be true. To live, and breathe, and grow? Not us. We must, in time, be stricken as if in stone. I wager we would all be the poor, should our language change and we lose the meaning of things. Describe the new fangled? Never! That which is unfamiliar, should stay as the devil on the shore; an un-named mist, for it is not of our own loins.

    ie. Ask Norman where, in the time line of the English Language, he would prefer us to weigh anchor. And then poke fun at him for such a suggestion.

    1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Re: Forsooth!

      *Thunderous standing ovation*

      Bravo! Bravo! Encore! Encore!

      *Showers you in roses & chocolates for a job well done*

      Congratulations! You just won the internet! =-)p

      1. msknight Silver badge

        Re: Forsooth!

        I wouldn't call it a job well done.. it was something I threw together lest it be lost in the arse end of the comments :-D ... you know what we're like in here!

        Oh! Milk Tray! How DID you know :-)

        1. Mycho Silver badge

          Given his dislike of 'erm'

          It should be a minute-long podcast dismantling the latest tech jargon without hesitation repetition or deviation. Rehearsals are allowed but the recording must be made in one take.

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: Forsooth!

      Ask Norman where, in the time line of the English Language, he would prefer us to weigh anchor.

      @msknight: I agree utterly with the sentiment of your post, but I'm bound to point out that to "weigh anchor" is to raise the anchor from the sea bed and, by implication, sail away. I think "drop anchor", or just "anchor" would make more sense in the context.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Forsooth!

      To olde English thee thou must be true.

      1. msknight Silver badge

        Re: Forsooth!

        @Doctor Syntax - I believe "thee" is correct as I was using it - https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/thee - but I'm not an expert.

        @Kubla Cant - Totally correct.... I'll ask El Reg for an extra few hours window for post editing :-) ... tally ho !!!!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Forsooth!

          https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/thee

          Please cite an English dictionary when discussing English grammar

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Forsooth!

          https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/thee

          Please cite an English dictionary when discussing English linguistics.

          1. Mycho Silver badge

            Re: Forsooth!

            Who are these "Friends" that mer-web say use thee in the subjective case?

            I mean they're wrong but who are they?

            1. m0rt Silver badge

              Re: Forsooth!

              I would guess these.

        3. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: Forsooth!

          I believe "thee" is correct as I was using it

          Nowt wrong wi' using "tha" an' all.

          1. msknight Silver badge

            Re: Forsooth!

            I wonder what Shakespeare would have written like if he lived in modern day Halifax.

            1. Mycho Silver badge

              Re: Forsooth!

              I have heard Scholars attest that the accent of Will's time was a lot closer to Yorkshire than to what we think of as 'proper' today. I think it was mostly based on which words rhymed.

              1. Citizen99

                Re: Forsooth!

                I've read suggestions that, being from Warwickshire, his accent might have been Proto-Brummie.

            2. TimMaher

              Re: Forsooth!

              Could do you a Chaucer in Saarf London?

              “There was this young geezer in ‘is posse wearing a perm.

              What was ‘e like!?”

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Forsooth!

          "I believe "thee" is correct as I was using it"

          "Thee" is objective, like "him" or "me".

          "Thou" is subjective, like "he" or "I".

          Which would fit better in your original sentence?

        5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Forsooth!

          I believe "thee" is correct as I was using it - https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/thee - but I'm not an expert.

          MW says, correctly of course, that it's the objective form. You were using it as the subject. When I grew up in Yorkshire second person singular was still in current use by older gernerations so, give or take the dialect pronunciation, it's second nature.

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Forsooth!

            I 'goog'ing love the Register comments section :D

    4. John Sager

      Re: Forsooth!

      It all went downhill after Beowulf. And Guillaume le Bâtarde didn't help either.

    5. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Forsooth!

      Thou art nought but a most coutellous bullyrook. Beware lest someone clapperclaws thy mazzard.

  4. ArrZarr Silver badge
    Happy

    I, for one, am glad that Norman is undertaking efforts that put him in a similar light as the Académie française rather than putting his copious free time to use in some field that might hinder progress to have some stuck-up traditionalist clinging to the arbitrary rulebooks provided. He doesn't work in the public sector, does he?

    In the case of our wondrous mongrel tounge, the rulebooks were generally dreamed up in the 18th and 19th centuries by prescriptivist linguists who appear to have had very little basis for most of the rules they created and whose main objective appears to have been getting the English language to be neat and tidy rather than the ability to express ideas and have conversations.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "[...] whose main objective appears to have been getting the English language to be neat and tidy rather than the ability to express ideas and have conversations.

      IIRC There was another tidy up much earlier. Someone decided that as there were the words "would" and "should" - then the perfectly correct "coud" should match them by changing to "could".

      1. 9Rune5

        then the perfectly correct "coud" should match them by changing to "could".

        Shirley, you mean "cloud"?

      2. cat_mara
        Unhappy

        Don't get me started on the "inkhorners" that decided "iland" needed an "s" or "dett" a "b" just because Latin had them...

    2. alexdonald
    3. Juan Inamillion
      Coat

      'In the case of our wondrous mongrel tounge, the rulebooks were generally dreamed up in the 18th and 19th centuries by prescriptivist linguists '

      Very cunning them linguists...

  5. cat_mara

    Wittgenstein, eh?

    Handbags pokers at dawn it is!

    I'm failing to see what a famously short-tempered 20th century Austrian philosopher has to do with it.

    1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: Wittgenstein, eh?

      In Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein famously* said that "the meaning of a word is its use in the language". So "erm" has a meaning determined by how it's used: as a nonce-word.

      *for small values of famously.

      1. Mycho Silver badge

        Re: Wittgenstein, eh?

        The meaning of erm is "I'm pausing for thought but still speaking."

        Likewise, Oo-aar and variants thereof usually mean "I am listening, please continue."

        1. swm

          Re: Wittgenstein, eh?

          When I was in college we had a professor whom we taped weekly for a radio show. His speech was littered with "ums", and "ah"s and if we had time we would edit these out of the tape (with real scissors!). Someone spliced all of these tape fragments together and it sounded like someone with something to say but couldn't get it out.

  6. jake Silver badge
    Pint

    Obvious answer to grammar nazi:

    "In closing, might I implore you to stick to good old English. It will never fail you."

    Old English? Fair enough, I can do that:

    Sprec tō mē on Englice. Ic þancie þē.

    (Sārig, ic nāh geweald. Dǣdbōt: bēor.)

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Obvious answer to grammar nazi:

      Old English might get us in trouble.

      "Bird" meaning woman ( really "byrd", I believe ) is a Viking ( and therefore at some point in history, an English ) word.

      I also believe Norman would moan at my northern use of 'ta', from the Danish (and therefore English) "tak".

      1. cat_mara
        Coat

        Re: Obvious answer to grammar nazi:

        I'll get me mantle...

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Obvious answer to grammar nazi:

          "I'll get me mantle..."

          Mantle is Middle English, from the Anglo-French mantel, and originally Latin mantellum. The OE word for cape or cloak is sciccing.

      2. jake Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Obvious answer to grammar nazi:

        The language of the Vikings was not Old English. It was Old Norse. The word for woman in ON is kvennalið.

        The word for "woman" in OE is frōwe (see: germanic frau).

        Both languages have other words and variations for the word woman depending on context. None of them are, or resemble, bird I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to discover them on your own.

        My BigDic says that (paraphrasing to avoid the OED's predatory lawyers) ta is the baby-talk version of "thanks" because babies have issues with th and nks. First appeared in print in 1772. And so I learn something I never knew, despite being a Yank who uses the word daily. Ta, disgusted! This round's on me :-)

        1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          Re: Obvious answer to grammar nazi:

          You're going to tell me that King Henry XIII was actually a woman next, aren't you?

          Stop ruining my historical knowledge. Down with that sort of thing.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Obvious answer to grammar nazi:

            I know I'll regret asking this ... but how did you make the leap from the history of the English language to the history of Bavaria?

        2. Mycho Silver badge

          Re: Obvious answer to grammar nazi:

          According to Random House Dictionary, 'bird' meaning woman comes from middle english 'burd' that probably comes from the old english word 'byrde' meaning posh, which would make "classy bird" a tautology.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Obvious answer to grammar nazi:

            The ME word burde, meaning lady, is more likely. That is probably a metathesis of the OE word bryd which means exactly what it sounds like.

    2. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Old English? Fair enough, I can do that:

      And the sāme tō yōu with knōbs ōn, you filthy swine!

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Old English? Fair enough, I can do that:

        That's knöbs, you heathen. Have you never turned it up to 11?

        1. Someone Else Silver badge

          Re: Old English? Fair enough, I can do that:

          That's knöbs, you heathen.

          I always though that referred to someone that was relatively new and unsophisticated in the ways of the object under discussion...as in, "With regard to Python, he's just a knöb!"

        2. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: That's knöbs, you heathen.

          Maybe in the soft southern jessie pronunciation.

          Oop North we use the one wi' the line on top! Mind you, we don't get to say it much, on account o' not 'avin' knobs when we were kids. Any we saw were left over from t'un invasions an' were corroded all ter 'eck.

  7. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    To be human.

    If a human had produced the transcription of the statement, they may well have missed out the "erm", or possibly qualified it with some descriptive text.

    But when you get a machine performing the transcription, all of these little hesitations, repetitions and deviations are reproduced verbatim.

    Sounds like Norman is a fan of "Just a Minute"!

    1. IWVC

      Re: To be human.

      Not so. If you have ever read Hansard, the official publication of Parliamentary business, every "Oh" "erm" "like", "But" etc. is faithfully recorded. In the days before Hansard was published electronically (mid 1980s) I was part of a group of Department of Transport officials being interrogated by a House of Lords Scrutiny Committee. As we were getting up to leave at the end of the session one of their Lordships fired a late question that was directed to me. I wasn't expecting it and my response of "..er um, I think Belgium does it" was duly recorded in the Parliamentary archives.

    2. ibmalone Silver badge

      Re: To be human.

      If a human had produced the transcription of the statement, they may well have missed out the "erm", or possibly qualified it with some descriptive text.

      They may include it, particularly if they want the person quoted to appear hesitant or confused. There are a number of utterances that are words in English, "um" appears in the OED, but "erm" does not, and maybe this is what raised our hyper-pedant's ire. Though by the time Wittegenstein appeared I was beginning to suspect Norman would need surgical help to remove his tongue from his cheek. "Erm" is definitely a sound that someone might make though, distinct from "um", it's a stylistic choice whether you write it phonetically or use a more formal 'real' word like "uh" or "um" to indicate the hesitation.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: To be human.

        Perhaps the man in question was a Scouser? In which case "errRRRm" might be a good spelling...

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: Scouse

          I don't find your argument compelling, I ain't Spartacus.

          My own experience is that the scouse pronunciation is closer to dare-em-air (rendered phonetically since I can't be arsed to learn the IPA symbols for scouse nor import the font into my computer).

          I think of my university pal Will when I hear a Liverpudlian voice these days. Last time I saw him was when St Etienne lost vs Liverpool in '77. Noisy night in the pool that day, and in the van driving back to UEA.

          Will, hope yer well.

    3. Tikimon Silver badge

      Re: To be human.

      AT LEAST IT'S SHORT! I had an African national professor for Organic Chem II. Great guy and excellent English with a charming accent. However, he ended most sentences with "does that make sense." I deliberately dropped the question mark, he said it as a placeholder and without a questioning inflection most times. I started making hash marks every time he did it one day and noted 30 repetitions in 45 minutes. Apparently someone talked to him about it, because one day he started visibly trying to not say it to end sentences, grinning at himself when he slipped. Like I said, great guy and I actually passed that beast of a class.

      Yep, another typical irrelevant anecdote. I gotta have a purpose.

  8. deive

    It may not be a word, but sounds are very important too. Think about any onomatopoeia.

    Also, imagine comics if they didn't use sound words (with many exclamation marks) they just wouldn't be the same - POW!!! BANG!! BIFF!!!

    OK, I'll get my coat.

  9. Gomez Adams

    "bastardized" is a bastardised spelling is it not?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      I don't believe so. All those "ised/ized" words seem to be equally correct either way. As I understand it the "z" spellings are the original, which changed in proper English after the US had been colonizsed - and thus they didn't get the memo on the new way of doing things. If you check your OED - both are still listed as correct.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Actually ...

        ... here in the US, we still spell them correctly. You lot bastardized them.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Actually ...

          ... here in the US, we still spell them correctly. You lot bastardized them.

          Whilst this may be historically accurate, in that the US retained one variant spelling, whilst the UK retained the other, back at a time when either was probably considered to be perfectly acceptable, would you care to explain, on behalf of your fellow Left-Pondians, why you decided to start arbitrarily dropping letters from words like colour, labour, etc.?

          I have heard (and I'm not sure how much truth there is to this, or whether it is apocryphal), that this was done to save money on newspaper adverts, when they were paid for by the letter, and free newspapers being one of the few printed things that many Americans were able to get hold of at the time, these spellings became common usage as a result.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Actually ...

            Frankly, as a student of and lover of the English language, I personally don't give a shit about "correctness" of a given spelling outside the classroom. It's all shades of gr[e|a]y, innit. As long as you clearly get your point across, what difference does it make, outside of trying to one-up somebody who lives outside your country? And how sad is that, when you think about it. Shirley we all have more important things to argue about?

            Doesn't mean I'm above needling people about minor nits, though ... but in my defen[s|c]e, it's almost always in jest ... and who amongst us doesn't have a pet peeve or seven?

            That said, the Yank variants color, favor, flavor (center, defense, traveler etc.) can be laid squarely on the head of one Noah Webster. He figured that it would be easier when teaching kids to spell. Hogwash, I calls it ... but it's far too late for anybody to change things now. Language mutates, especially during a mass migration. It's not right, nor is it wrong. It just is.

            The way I figure it, "When in Rome ..." applies.

            1. swm

              Re: Actually ...

              I hate people who don't distinguish between "to", "too", and "two". Or "there", "the're", and "their" etc. It sometimes takes me several rereadings before I decipher the meaning.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The OED does not express an opinion on what is "correct". That would be a job for the Oxford Style Manual or some other publication.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Well, OK. The OED has both the "ised" and "ized" spellings of many words listed. Which means either are correct spellings. Which you pick is a matter for a style guide obviously - but the dictionary is saying either is acceptable. Whereas it doesn't list yzed for the same words - meaning that would be incorrect.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "That would be a job for the Oxford Style Manual or some other publication.

          Inspector Morse solved a murder in Oxford by deductions about the use of "ise" and "ize" words in a note.

          1. Hopalong

            Ghost in the Machine if memory serves me correctly. Also had a early IBM PS2 PC as an clue.

            1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

              Smashing machines, them!

      3. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        There once was a theory that Greek roots take "ize" and Latin roots "ise". The OED says "bastard" is from medieval Latin bastardus, probably from bastum ‘packsaddle’ (?!).

    2. Tim99 Silver badge

      A very long time ago I was a pupil at a UK school that wished to project an illusion of grandeur. We were taught to use the "z" form as it was deemed to be correct Oxford English. As a consequence, my writings are sometimes thought to be authored by an American.

  10. Chrissy

    Spiny Norman

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Spiny Norman

      Dinsdale?

      1. Roger Kynaston

        Dinsdale

        Look for someone with a table nailed to their head!

      2. jake Silver badge

        Lobster.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          Re:Table nailing gangster

          Lovely bloke - sound as a pound.

    2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Norman Mailer

  11. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    So he's that incensed about the bastardization of his beloved language ?

    Then what on Earth is he doing on the Internet ?

    Go back to reading Shakespeare, my good fellow. Oh, and don't forget to put wax in your ears when school kids are walking by, you'll sleep better.

    The only language that doesn't change is Latin. Hint : it's because it's dead.

    1. msknight Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: So he's that incensed about the bastardization of his beloved language ?

      It's not dead. It's just pining for the fjords.

      (sorry.... somebody had to say it... and it might as well have been me.)

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: So he's that incensed about the bastardization of his beloved language ?

        Pining for the what?

        We'll not have any foreign words, thank you very much, Sir.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: So he's that incensed about the bastardization of his beloved language ?

          "We'll not have any foreign words"

          Doesn't that leave us without much of the English language left at all?

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: So he's that incensed about the bastardization of his beloved language ?

      But he specified "old English". The Bard wrote in Early Modern ... Chaucer wrote in Middle. I think the author you are looking for is Bēda Venerābilis.

      1. a cynic writes...

        Re: So he's that incensed about the bastardization of his beloved language ?

        I'm afraid Bede wrote in Latin rather than Old English.

    3. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: So he's that incensed about the bastardization of his beloved language ?

      If you think Latin is dead then you might wonder what tela totius terrae could possibly mean, or if that's too recent for you, what about taberna discothecaria?

    4. Someone Else Silver badge

      Re: So he's that incensed about the bastardization of his beloved language ?

      The only language that doesn't change is Latin.

      Well, there's always Aramaic...

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: So he's that incensed about the bastardization of his beloved language ?

        "Well, there's always Aramaic..."

        [Cam]aaaaarrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh!!!

    5. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

      Re: So he's that incensed about the bastardization of his beloved language ?

      Oh, that's funny! At school we had to deal with THREE different pronunciations!

      We had what might be described as "traditional anglicized" (basically, the Latin used in the law and so on), we had a new-fangled academic pronunciation (from ivory tower boffins trying to be faithful to what Romans might have said, as if anyone cares because they're all dead now, but still...) and we had a local variant that we used once a week that was more closely aligned with medieval church Latin as mucked about by generations of reluctant scholars (in which, for example, the word "nostris" was pronounced "noss-trees").

      Latin doesn't change? Hah!

  12. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    You Know

    Whenever I read you know, heck!, even when I hear it, my brain makes me hear and see Christopher Walken saying you. know. And the world is back in perfect order for me.

    1. Kane Silver badge

      Re: You Know

      "And the world is back in perfect order for me."

      I could've used a little more cowbell.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The only language that doesn't change is Latin. Hint : it's because it's dead."

    IIRC there is still some disagreement about how to pronounce Latin. The Latin of the Church has been influenced by Italian.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Which version?

      Which dialect of Italian, that is.

    2. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Latin has been evolving a long time. Church latin is quite distinct from classical latin: if you're a choral singer you get to perform the same texts with different pronunciations. Then you can add more disreputable strains from Goliard[1] to Schoolboy.

      [1] A mediæval dissident movement.

    3. ibmalone Silver badge

      Keeping in the spirit of things:

      IIRC there is still some disagreement about how to pronounce Latin.

      OED says it's /ˈlatɪn/

  14. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Erm...

    I always just thought it was just the verbalisation of a short pause in thought. In the same way that "bang" is just the verbalisation of a sound. Nothing to get hot under the collar about.

    Language evolves. Get used to it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Erm...

      People express opinions about language. Get used to that.

      For what it's worth, the OED doesn't seem to have anything to say about "erm" (unless it's masked, somehow, by ERM = Exchange Rate Mechanism), though it does have "hem" going back to 1525 and "um" going back to 1672, one of which, at least, is probably related. The spelling "erm" suggests to me that the R is not pronounced, which is a relatively modern phenomenon.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Re: Erm...

        So what we're saying is that "erm" is really a portmanteau of "uh" and "um" and should correctly be spelt, uhm?

      2. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: Erm...

        Nope. How about "if you often need to lay down a bit to rest while thinking, at least get used to not polluting the airwaves while you do. It's an exceedingly poorly veiled attempt to pretend that you're still talking and to prevent anyone else actually capable of thinking and talking at the same time to do so in your miserably pathetic stead)".

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Erm...

        "The spelling "erm" suggests to me that the R is not pronounced, [...]"

        In my English background "erm" has the R pronounced. It lengthens the sound and usually suggests some cogitation on the part of the speaker before they make a statement. The "um" and "hem" are short sounds that do not give the same impression of a deep or lateral thought.

        1. David Roberts Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Erm...

          Furthermore erm is a precursor to asexual.

    2. David Roberts Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Erm...

      No, bang is shorthand for exclamation mark. [Sometimes also referred to as shriek. ]

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. Dr_N Silver badge

    Pfffft.

    Right?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Pfffft.

      Meh?

      I'm normally pretty laid back language-wise. But I do dislike that word - if word it be. So instead, I should annoy people by saying I could care less.

      1. ArrZarr Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Pfffft.

        I only have one thing to say to that --->

      2. Alister Silver badge

        Re: Pfffft.

        So instead, I should annoy people by saying I could care less.

        Nnnnnnnng... must resist... HmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmaaaaaaarGH...

        No, I will be strong, I won't fall for the bait...

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
          Trollface

          Re: Pfffft.

          Bait? Who me?

          I wouldn't want anybody to loose they're temper over one off my posts. That would be rediculous...

          1. Alister Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: Pfffft.

            I wouldn't want anybody to loose they're temper over one off my posts. That would be rediculous...

            <twitch> <twitch> <twitch> <twitch>

            :D

          2. DropBear Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: Pfffft.

            Looking at some of these posts I have so many evens to can't...

          3. phuzz Silver badge

            Re: Pfffft.

            "I wouldn't want anybody to loose they're temper over one off my posts."

            My favourite way of correcting lose/loose:

            Lose = what you would do at a grammar competition.

            Loose = your mum.

            1. David 18

              Re: Pfffft.

              @Phuzz

              Whoosh = The sound of low flying jokes passing overhead. I presume you missed the other deliberate mistakes?

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Pfffft.

                "Whoosh = The sound of low flying jokes passing overhead."

                Unless they are pneumatically powered. Then they go pfffft.

  17. chivo243 Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    so...

    is this a "like" free zone? Like, erm, ya know...

    And did anybody see the speech? Maybe when he said "erm" he also give the lifted eyebrow to emphasize it wasn't his decision?

    Paris because, you know, like totally... and there is no Moon Unit Zappa icon ;-}

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: so...

      It's totes de stress - this whole lingo malarkey.

      I think from now on all select committee evidence should be given in the form of interpretive dance...

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: so...

      Congrats, you earned one of my very, very few thumbs down. If ElReg allowed me to downvote your post a hundred times I would. I mean, honestly, trying to compare a Zappa with a useless bint like Paris? You should be ashamed of yourself!

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: so...

        trying to compare a Zappa with a useless bint like Paris?

        May he die screaming for that.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As a foreign speaker of English I immediately wondered if the esteemed writer should not have put the "you know" in quotes to identify it as such, you know? It's that customary in Good English?

    I must admit I have never heard any mode of English referred to as "Good" - I've heard "The Queen's English" which I assume is the mouth-full-of-potato variant, or "BBC English" which is the well enunciated variant you can hear on BBC if they're not trying to be regional.

    Thanks for the laugh, and it's only Wednesday. I'm still grinning :).

    1. Dr_N Silver badge

      "As a foreign speaker of English ... "

      Is it particularly difficult fir Americans?

      1. Mark Manderson
        Joke

        Erm... what did you say again, dear reader?

        spelling words the original way is :P

        specialised (not specialized)

        customise (not customize)

        maths (not "math" its short for mathmatics) plural.

        :D

        lets nae evan gang up to ma neck o the wids, ye widnea understand a smidgin!

    2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Coat

      "which I assume is the mouth-full-of-potato variant,"

      It's spoken with a 'plum' in the mouth, sheesh, these foreeners.

  19. Arthur the cat Silver badge
    Pint

    Some time spent researching the works of Wittgenstein might be of value to you.

    We discuss very little else in the saloon bar of the Whippet and Ferret.

  20. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    reminds me of...

    old Japanese man ranting about the national public broadcaster (NHK, like BBC) over loan-words entering the language. I did read an article pointing out some good arguments, such as that many of the "native" words he suggested are in fact imports from China, but I can't find it again.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Erm" is for the speech impedimented.

    The correct usage is "em".

    "Erm" is used by people with the RP speech problem. Even HM the Queen has largely got over that one. I think it was most widespread in the remote south east of the country - perhaps south of Cambridge and west of Oxford.

    If you hear someone saying erm, see if you can notice other mispronunciations. My favourite is their habit of making so many of their vowels the same as in "her".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Erm" is for the speech impedimented.

      " I think it was most widespread in the remote south east of the country - [...]"

      Standard pronunciation of "erm" in my northern working class childhood. The R lengthens the sound to indicate the speaker is cogitating before making a chosen statement about something.

      Our 1960s secondary school English teacher had two language triggers. A kindness on his part was in trying to eradicate our local pronunciation of short vowels and some overstressed endings.

      His real hatred was reserved for Americanisms. You learned to duck if one of the latter inadvertently escaped your lips. Even at a reunion 45 years later - old boys were careful to say "round" rather than "around".

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: "Erm" is for the speech impedimented.

        He sounds like an excellent teacher. I hope you bought him a few of these* -->

        * real ale of course, not [US] Budweiser

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: "Erm" is for the speech impedimented.

      their habit of making so many of their vowels the same as in "her"

      The sound in question is called a schwa, and it's the most common phoneme in English of all varieties.

  22. Iain

    Young 'un taking a nap?

    Erm.... what's a 'whippernapper'?

    Erms and Ums can be useful to insert comprehension pauses for those of that speak too fast for others. to understand...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Young 'un taking a nap?

      "Erms and Ums can be useful to insert comprehension pauses for those of that speak too fast for others. to understand..."

      If they do that too often in their flow of words then it is hard work trying to extract the overall meaning.

  23. Mark Manderson

    erm, Norman, where the erm.....fluck do you.....erm live?

  24. Woza
    Pint

    Thank you for

    "dischuffed"

    I shall try and use it around the office, as long as I can avoid Norman.

    Icon for the wordsmith.

  25. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    Wittgenstein

    Perhaps Mr. Clark had in mind Philosophical Investigations, no. 464:

    "My aim is to teach you to pass from a piece of disguised nonsense to something that is patent nonsense."

    Now, I should not have thought that El Reg needed any help at all with patent nonsense; but Mr. Clark may have some right to consider himself as better at it.

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: patent nonsense

      Wittgenstein weighed in on the number of Perpetual Motion Machine designs granted a number by the USPO?

  26. Dr. G. Freeman

    (Tries typing in cuneiform)

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      cuneiform

      Nonono you are doing it wrong. The letters are all overpunch codes.

      Look it's very simple: Press ctrl-shift-capslock-w-p-h-&-PageUp and ... wait, no, that just unlocks a full load-out in Spy Hunter.

      I'll have to find my notes.

  27. Mike Moyle Silver badge

    Perhaps Norman would have been more accepting, had you written: "And so we will formally need to, erm (sic), give notice that we're changing the shutdown date in December."

    ...Norman seems a sic sort of individual.

  28. hmv

    "I had never heard this term either by direct/indirect reference"

    and

    "I have taken note that MA and PhD holders use this term"

    Minus 20 points for being unable to lie half-reasonably.

  29. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

    "Nothing particularly ungrammatical about that sentence."

    Sentence fragment? Perhaps. I disagree, however; there is an implied "There is" in front, which you've merely left off as redundant. Of course, I just did the same thing.

    I'm not actually an expert, so I reserve the right to be wrong.

    Meantime, I believe your flamelord's example of "you know" should properly been put in quotes, like I did here.

  30. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    I think Norman's problem is with padding words

    You like know, like some people like use like like like every like other word like in a sentence. Like.

    Unlike.

    1. ibmalone Silver badge

      Re: I think Norman's problem is with padding words

      You like know, like some people like use like like like every like other word like in a sentence. Like.

      I am like literally listening to that conversation like literally right now, and I'm literally not even lying.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: I think Norman's problem is with padding words

      So with all the "likes", he's a Facebook fan????

    3. the Jim bloke Bronze badge
      Holmes

      Re: I think Norman's problem is with padding words

      Had a manager who would pad their sentences with "obviously", with the implication that if you didnt understand or agree with what they were saying - you - were stupid. As they were high up in the food chain the habit pervaded the supervisory class.

      It's just a fancier way of saying "ya know..", and like all forms of baseless endorsement and excessive reinforcement, it makes me doubt they actually know what they are talking about.

    4. Pedigree-Pete Bronze badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: I think Norman's problem is with padding words

      Loyal Commenter. If you don't like "like" stay away from Liverpool and its environs, like. PP

  31. Florida1920 Silver badge

    Reading comprehension

    Not being a Brit, I kept reading it as Thame Slink.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Reading comprehension

      I think that's where the Psycho The Rapist joke comes from.

      :)

  32. DougS Silver badge

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

    A flame of a week has random capitalization, plenty of expletives or shift-key substitutes, and makes it difficult to tell if it was written by a sentient being or something that wouldn't even pass for AI to whoever created the AManFromMars1 AI.

    A good flame leaves you imagining the thick pool of saliva that must have been left on the sender's keyboard after "submit" was clicked.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

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

      amanfrommars1 is actually quite intelligible when compared to his predecessor.

      1. DougS Silver badge
        Devil

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

        He had a predecessor? AManFromMars0, I assume?

        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?

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
            Trollface

            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

  33. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

    #cognitivevelocity

    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

    1. 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

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My good sir

    this must be the bestest trollmaster of the AD 2018!

  35. 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".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You need to get out more. :-)

    2. the Jim bloke Bronze badge
      Headmaster

      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"

  36. David Roberts Silver badge
    Windows

    Erm

    Is where the 'art is.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Erm

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

  37. jake Silver badge

    To erm is human ...

    ... 'tis most benign.

    1. Someone Else Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

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

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

      Stop it! Da bodayews!

    2. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: To erm is human ...

      'Tis a consummation devoutly to be washed.

  38. 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

  41. ICPurvis47
    Headmaster

    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.

    </rant>

    1. 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.

      1. ICPurvis47
        Headmaster

        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.

        1. Someone Else Silver badge
          Headmaster

          @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.)

          1. 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'?

            1. 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.

        2. 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 ...

  42. Denise HC

    ESN programme director

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

  43. 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.

    https://cat.wordpandit.com/abrogate-arrogate/

    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.

  44. Paul A. Walker

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

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