"What Happened to Us?" — Gen Z Woman Says Her Generation is Addicted to “Filler Words” in Speech

Mustafa Gatollari - Author
By

Jan. 31 2024, Published 3:44 p.m. ET

Older People Don’t Use Filler Words
Source: TikTok | @ashlynnrudzinski

If you've watched The Nice Guys, then you'll probably recall one of the recurring bits of dialogue Ryan Gosling's character has with his daughter in the film and it's about the importance of being direct and concise with one's speech by using filler words and phrases, such as, "and stuff."

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TikToker Ashlynn Rudzinski (@ashlynnrudzinski) posted a viral clip filled with self-loathing over the fact that she cannot speak without the constant assistance of "filler" words, writing in a caption for the video: "What did our parents feed us I cannot speak without depending on the word like."

She records the video from the interior of a vehicle and speaks directly into the camera: "I have never met anyone over the age of 50 that uses filler words. What happened to us? Like," she catches herself using a filler word in the act, "like," and then starts pointing to her mouth as a primary example of what speaking with common speech patterns among the current generation looks like.

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Source: TikTok | @ashlynnrudzinski

"I cannot speak without saying like...um...why are my ideas like —" she catches herself doing it again, putting her hands over her mouth, muffling a scream. "See? I can't. I can't. I can't. My grandparents are seriously like —" again, she finds herself using the word "like" in order to express her ideas.

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"I have to exit," she says at the end of the video before ending the clip.

While filler words are often maligned as making folks who employ them as part of their daily spoken vernacular as less intelligent or not well spoken, there are some who argue that this isn't the case.

While it's very possible that the aforementioned sources are examples of pseudo-intellectuals employing roundabout arguments as a means of justifying an inherent weakness, i.e. not speaking clearly and concisely, instead of rectifying said weakness, there are a breadth of different resources that seem to believe "filler words" aren't all that bad.

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older people dont use filler words
Source: TikTok | @ashlynnrudzinski

Harvard Business Review published a defense of filler language, stating that phrases such as "'um' and 'ah' are actually useful."

The author of the piece broke down several reasons why, along with particular examples supporting her reasoning: "To be diplomatic," was one, stating that using filler or vague words was a way of "avoiding offending...managers."

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Another useful trait for word fillers: holding the floor: "When working in an international setting, one participant commented that if she paused in a meeting instead of using a filler, people would assume she was finished speaking and would jump in to interrupt her. The filler was her way of saying, 'I’m not done yet.,'" the writer penned.

They did concede, however, that the usage of filler words in one's speech must be done in a limited capacity: "Used sparingly, there’s nothing wrong with filler words. When you use them excessively, however, they can detract from your confidence and credibility. Imagine presenting a strong recommendation to your board of directors and using um in between every word; the constant fillers would undermine your message."

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older people dont use filler words
Source: TikTok | @ashlynnrudzinski

Business Insider also highlighted several other analysts' opinions on filler words and their functions in daily human interactions. When it comes to politeness or softening the blows of potentially blunt conversations, they are extremely useful. The outlet gave the example of directly declining someone's invitation to hang out by saying, "no," directly.

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However, if one uses filler words such as, "um, well, sorry, I just don't think I can." Is that a bunch of fluff? Absolutely. But will it make the person who just invited you to hang out feel less crumby thank if you flat-out told them "no?" Most definitely.

BI also said that filler words serve another important function when it comes to the expression of complicated or intricate ideas that the speaker is attempting to convey in an effective manner. Utilizing fillers can give the listener in question more time to hear the concepts that are being conveyed and process them accordingly, so in this instance, fillers can be extremely thoughtful.

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older people dont use filler words
Source: TikTok | @ashlynnrudzinski

However, the same piece did quote a Western Illinois University professor and retired FBI agent Dr. John R. Schafer, who said that filler words are also an indicator of whether or not somebody's lying.

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"Truthful people convey information and seek confirmation from listeners. Liars try to convince others that what is being said is true. The word 'like' indicates that what is being said is different than what the speaker actually means," the outlet quoted Schafer as saying.

Folks in the comments section of Ashlynn's video didn't think that utilizing filler words in her daily speech was necessarily a bad thing either, or a sign of a lack of intelligence.

One commenter did think that her speech patterns will probably change with time, however: "As you mature and want to be taken seriously, you will change the way you speak."

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older people dont use filler words
Source: TikTok | @ashlynnrudzinski

What do you think? Are filler words a big problem? Or is Ashlynn, and other people who think that they're communicatively inferior by using fillers, being too hard on herself?

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