Stuck for words?
Share this article:
London - It may simply sound inarticulate, but whether you say “um” or “er” in conversation could actually reveal a lot about you.
Studies carried out in Scotland, the US, Germany and the Netherlands have concluded that women and young people are more likely to say “um” when deep in thought, while men and older people favour “er”.
But they warned that “er” could eventually become extinct because “um” is being used more in everyday language.
Josef Fruehwald, a lecturer in socio-linguistics from the University of Edinburgh, analysed the speech of 25 000 people in the US city of Philadelphia, although he substituted the American “uh” for “er”.
He told The Times: “Women’s preference for ‘um’ instead of ‘uh’ ranges between 400 percent and 120 percent stronger than men’s.
“It’s actually the case that when language changes women lead the way.”
Some experts believe “um” and “er” are simply used in different situations – “um” for a long pause and “er” for a shorter break.
Mark Liberman, of the University of Pennsylvania, suggested these “hesitation sounds have different functions, which are differentially useful to speakers of different ages and genders – like uncertainty about what to say versus uncertainty about how to say it”. - Daily Mail