True stories with a twist!


Unknown-1It has nothing to do with my training as a speech pathologist. There is a particular pattern, that when I hear it, makes me bridle with impatience. I call it the “Back and Forth” pattern. It is the verbal equivalent of giving something with one hand and taking it back with the other.

That’s what happens when a speaker starts telling you something, then interrupts himself to go backwards to justify his position. Something like this:

“The child in front of us on the plane wouldn’t stop crying and screaming. I felt like getting out of my seat and giving him a…..Not that I believe in striking children. I never even lifted a finger to any of mine when they were little; I would never hit a child.”


“They asked me to serve on the School Board next term. I hate working on any kind of committees: the pettiness that comes out at those meetings….Not that I don’t want to help in any way I can, because I think they do a stand up job. And of course I’m flattered to be asked, but…”


“We’re very good friends of the Johnson’s, and we love their family to death. But their taste in restaurants is horrible…Not that every place we go to dinner at has to be a formal, expensive place, but…

Can anybody make a statement, take a position on an issue, and let it stand as is without having to explain their point of view?

And by the way, I hate the expression “I love them to death.”  What kind of mixed language is that? Not that I want to criticize anybody’s right to express themselves in any way they choose. Everyone who knows me knows I am a passionate supporter of Freedom of Speech.

“Back and Forth” is only one of many irritating speech patterns I hear. Please tell me you share my dislike of the expression “To tell you the truth” every time your friend expresses an idea?

How about starting a sentence with “Frankly…” Must you be told that they really mean what they’re about to say? Should you assume they are lying unless they tell you that THIS time they are telling the truth? And if they don’t start with “Frankly” does that mean you should suspect everything else they say? Anyway, nobody says it more charmingly or unforgettably than Clark Gable did in “Gone WIth the Wind,” when he told Scarlett O’Hara, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” I believe Clark Gable with or without the “Frankly.”

The first time someone said to me, “You know what I mean?” I thought it was a real question and assured them that yes, I knew what they meant. But after they said it a few dozen more times in the course of a paragraph I realized that I was  listening to a habit, not a question.          images

An earwig is what we call a song that plays unceasingly in your mind. So what should we call expressions people use that are just as annoying as a song you can’t get out of your head?

A speechwig?

Comments on: "SPEECH PATTERNS" (51)

  1. The one that peeves me, FRANKLY, is the response to “thank you” that is anything other than “you’re welcome”.

  2. I’ve been complaining about “sort of” for a couple of years now. It’s become an epidemic, inserted into the middle of sentences for no reason. Once you notice it, you’ll begin to hear it everywhere, especially on radio and television. (Sorry!)

    • You’re right, and my husband is the worst offender. It riles me and puts me in a really bad mood. Or is the bad mood caused by his leaving the midnight snacky dishes in the sink?

  3. It actually annoys me when someone tries to take apart every thing I say and examine it closely. I just want to be me and speak and write in my own manner..even if it isn’t the way most people think it should be. Just me being stubborn tonight, Bev

    • Of course! What good is writing and expressing yourself if you can’t say it the way you want to. Except,of course, for saying, “Frankly” before every statement!

  4. I think this is a great topic! You see so many speech patterns that are really strange. I recently saw some PBS clips on McCarthyism–that could generate an amazing speech study!

  5. Enjoyable post, Ronnie. You touched on a few of my least favorite “speechwigs.” There are a few words and phrases that cause me to gnash my teeth: “utilize” (Why not just say the word ‘use’?), and “I love me some … (fill in the blank).” When I catch myself using a phrase over and over, I really try to replace it – whether this is verbally or in writing.

  6. Hello my dear friend,
    have a wonderful weekend

  7. Excellent post, reminds me of a course I once did called clear thinking where you analyze what is being presented via the media, your blog is a perfect example where speaking needs to be interpreted to ascertain if it is clear speaking.
    Not a day goes by now where one is not exposed to the give and take as you correctly identified.

    • I used to TEACH those classes. We video taped people speaking and showed them the tapes. Everyone hated being filmed, but all agreed that they learned more by seeing themselves than they ever could in a lecture class.

  8. Nine years in radio cured me of most of these anomalies.

    • Who trained you to eliminate the “abnormalities?” I’m afraid that if they become commonly used they will become acceptable forms of speech.

      • I did! I listened to every interview I engaged in – often more than once – and could HEAR myself. Important, that.

        • Hearing and seeing yourself are the best educational tools. We used to video tape people giving speeches when we were in the business of teaching presentation techniques, and they were usually amazed at the way they looked and sounded.

          • Yes. I’m not saying it wasn’t uncomfortable doing so – it was agonizing, at times! I’d rather have simply put the programs to bed. But it was, as you say, a most useful tool.

  9. I love the term speechwig to death. Frankly, I think many of these things are just verbal spacers, like a more mature version of just saying “um.”

  10. Great post! I agree with “CyclingGrandma” — people who start off sentences with “To be honest…” or “To tell you the truth” make me wonder if they were being honest at other times. I guess that would apply to anyone who uses a “back and forth” expression.

  11. lisa honecker said:


  12. Don’t get me wrong, but my big bugaboo is the word “like.” I do like “likes” in the blogging world, but in general like conversation I tend to like count the number of “likes” in like a sentence, and like I can’t concentrate on what the person is like trying to say. 🙂 Like I love this post! Really.

  13. Since I don’t speak English as my first, allow me ask if this is wrong as well: “To be frank with you, I think you daughter has little chance of passing the drive test?”

    • Hey Ronnie. I didn’t mean to counter the points you made (considering the question I asked). I’d like to correct my mistakes. And avoid similar cases in the future.

    • No, Uzoma, your example is Not wrong. I’m speaking of patterns that use words as fillers, but that have no real meaning. Your example was the correct way to use “frank.” If you said, “frankly” before every opinion you expressed it would become tiresome and meaningless.

  14. Agreed. I think we should raise awareness by asking – after hearing the pattern – “Wow. How does it feel to live with such contradiction in your life?” They’ll inevitably look confused and say, “Huh?” And we can point out exactly what they said. Which will make approximately no sense when it’s dissected. I’m doing it!

  15. I’m very taken by “bridle with impatience”. I shall adopt that little orphan of a phrase.

  16. haha, I have a friend who can’t start a sentence without frankly…looks like everyone has one such friend 😛

  17. Yikes! You pointed out some things that I dislike in others and some I mistakenly practice myself…. time to clean up my act!

  18. rhema3one7 said:

    Those repetitions are endless nonsense.

  19. Lovely post ! I really enjoy to read it❤
    I’m agree with you ! But just leave it as it is! We can not change them ! So sometimes just listen from one ear and let it go out from another ear!!!!!!!!! 😃

  20. A speechwig? I share in your passion about speech patterns. Not that I love the concept to death, but frankly, I don’t give a damn whether…
    Don’t mind me dear, I’m catching my fun with your creativity.
    Lovely post! 🙂

  21. “speech pathologist.” and pragmatics, the social aspects of communication. Wow.. I had wondered where your eloquence emanated from… I will now have to tread lightly when commenting here…

  22. Oh fantastic and I loved how you turned it on for Loved them to Death, but i do you know, not that i believe they should be dead or anything! i mean I do love them, but what i mean is. Seriously though i most hate when people say… ‘i don’t mean to offend’ BUT!! i said to someone only just recently, but you will offend me, i am fairly sure of that .. so lets just leave it .. ok?

  23. Good post. I agree with you. Another I don’t like is when people start sentences with “To be honest.” Does that mean the other times they’re not being honest?

  24. equally annoying is “gotya” after every sentence and I really hate “If I told you I would have to kill you”. Aren’t they the important ones 🙂

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