(PHILADELPHIA) — Uh…um…why do people use so much language filler when they speak?
Before answering that question, University of Pennsylvania linguist Mark Liberman wanted to determine just who uses these filler words.
After analyzing 14,000 phone conservations by 12,000 people in the U.S., Liberman says men are more prone to say “uh” while women prefer to use “um.”
However, he also noted some variations. For instance, men won’t say “uh” as often when speaking to women than other guys while women will drop in more “ums” when talking to males than other females.
Meanwhile, the use of “um” is about the same for younger women and younger men.
According to Liberman, our choice of fillers, that also include “like,” “you know” and “I mean” is based on gender, intelligence and language fluency.
Another finding: “um” comes in handy when people are trying to figure out what to say next while “uh” fills in the gap as we decide how to say it.
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