Douglas Whaley. Law professor, gay rights advocate, atheist, heart transplant recipient, actor, director, novelist, playwright, bridge player, husband, father, cat owner, storyteller. Much humor and, since the writer is a teacher, advice on many topics.
How To Stop Saying "You Know"
After a four year layoff from teaching, I was back in the
classroom at Ohio State this spring semester.We teach law through a Socratic dialogue, so I spent a good deal of time
in question and answer exchanges with the students.In a way I'd never noticed before my students had become infected by the
verbal diarrhea of saying "you know" every other sentence (and
sometimes more than once in the same sentence!).At one point I couldn't stop myself from
starting class with a few comments about this disturbing trend."You want to impress people—other
lawyers, new acquaintances, judges, your boss—with how articulate you
are," I lectured, "but if, you know, you are constantly, you know,
betraying your inability to, you know, control your sentences, you're going to look
bad, you know?"
This plague is everywhere from the President of the United
States clowning around on Late Night With
Jimmy Fallon last week, to nationally-known law professors we recently brought
to Ohio State making major presentations at a Sports Law event, to close friends
of mine who drive me nuts by peppering their speech with this mindless repetition.Apparently this is an international epidemic,
with the equivalent of "you know" infecting languages other than
English.I've ranted about this difficulty
in a prior post (see below), and, apparently, most people think I'm loony for
caring about it at all.I'm particularly
appalled when I hear myself say the hated words, which happens on very, very rare
occasions, when to my horror I notice I have an early symptom of the spreading
Suppose, however, that you're embarrassed (as you should be)
by this bad speech habit and want to stop.This post is about how to accomplish that.
First of all, you'll need a confederate.Choose someone you converse with a lot, and
who's willing to help you become aware of every time you say the words
"you know" (you can't hear it yourself).Get him/her to promise to quickly reply
"I know" every time you say
"you know"—and, simple as
that sounds, it's no more complicated than that.Of course, it will be irritating to you to have
your discourse interrupted like this, but
that's the point! You need to become
aware of how often you've become a mindless copier of the bad speech patterns
of others, and you'll begin to listen to yourself as you talk.After numerous conversations with your
"I know" friend, you'll be wary of the need to fill any pause in your
thoughts with a banal repetition of "you know."
If you think this is nonsense, try this experiment: listen
to how often you and your friends and people on TV or in casual conversations—stupidly,
mindlessly—clutter their conversations with "you know."Is it okay simply because everyone is doing
it?Running with the herd, dumb as the
rest?Do you want people you're trying
to impress thinking of you as "stupid and mindless"?
Changing right-brain habits like this one is always a hard
task, but who said you only get to do easy things in life?If you're tired of being a slave to the
phrase "you know," then strip it from your vocabulary except when it's
legitimately part of your thought (as in "You know what I mean?" or
"You know my sister, Mary Beth, don't you?" or "You know a lot for
someone so young").
When you're finally cured, buy your "I know" buddy lunch
and celebrate the elimination of this oral curse.Be pleased with yourself.Congratulations!
And then pay
it forward by helping to convert someone as smitten with this disease as you once
were yourself.Hell, let's build a 12-step
program of "I Know Buddies" and get the whole planet back to sounding
Socratic Dialogue in Law School," Jan 31, 2010
Hate 'You Know, 'You Know,'" Nov 28, 2010
Left Brain, Right Brain Life," Jan 17, 2011
Little But Important Rules," Apr 23, 2011
To Be Perfect," Mar 17, 2012 “A
Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013
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