25 August 2022

Yeah I Mean Look You Know

Yeah I Mean Look You Know

I heard and watched a person say these words on the BBC. She had been invited to explain that, in this country, according to her view, people who do not speak received Southern English are perceived as less intellectually able. Her view was, is, that there should be no prejudice against people on the grounds of their accent or dialect.

Yeah I Mean Look You Know ...

... is how she started her attempt to convince her hearers. I jotted it down instantly so avoid any risk of the-old-man-has-a-faulty-memory syndrome.

I have no prejudice against people who pronounce, or fail to pronounce, their R. Or against people who articulate some vowels differently. I positively love the way English is pronounced by Jamaicans ... or by South Asians. Or Texans. 

Boss Hog was one of my heroes.

I can also tolerate English-speakers who teach themselves to employ the glottal stop, although I feel disappointed that people who live in Scotland or Northumberland so often nowadays feel compelled to adopt a distinctive linguistic habit common to those who live near the Estuary of the Thames. My feeling  is that they would be easier on the ear if they simply spoke the inherited English of their regional ancestors. But if they must insist ...

The six words with which that woman began her expression of her views ... do they have an 'official' philological describer? If not, would 'starters' do?

Because it seems to me that all of these words are ... analysed functionally ... instruments to enable a speaker  to start speaking. They mean "I am about to utter, so, Little People, start listening". It used to irritate me that our Mr Blair so often began with "Look". Who exactly, Mr Blair, do you think you are to command me to "look"? And I have a prejudice against "Y'Know". If I already "know" X, frankly, I do not need you to tell me that I already "know X". Perhaps I do not know X, and strongly disagree with X. In that case, who on Earth do you think you are to inform me that I "know" X?

But perhaps I am overly aggressive and insistent. Perhaps there are people who need to declaim these formulae before they feel they have sufficiently worked up the courage to Utter.

Yeah I Mean Look You Know.

But do I really have to listen to people who dredge up together every such 'starter' that anybody else ever uses, and chant them all in rapid succession and in my direction? 

Couldn't all these public pontificators, these plus-quam-generous communicators, decide which Personal Starter they, each of them, wish personally to adopt ... and then just stick with that one?


19 comments:

Sue Sims said...

The technical term is 'discourse markers', and used in initial position like this, they're 'structural discourse markers'. In the example you quote, I'd assume that the speaker is using them to imply that she's really a humble seeker of truth, rather than laying down the law, before proceeding to, well, lay down the law.

Zephyrinus said...

Dear Reverend Fr. Hunwicke.

An apposite and topical Article, indeed.

Long ago, I gave up on being “inculcated” by our “Meeja” and stopped giving them “loadsamoney” every year in order for them so to do. I stopped purchasing a TV Licence and, therefore, desisted in watching “their” programmes.

The subject of your Article is in front of us all every day. The “Meeja”, certain newspapers, people in the street, they all project what you have headlined on.

Of course, to even comment upon such language would elicit the old canard of “Racism”, “Agesism”, “Sexism”, etc.

It is, very sadly, a sign of the times. Modernism, even.

The only recourse, for me, was to eschew the “Meeja” TV and, also, to turn off the “popular“ wireless programmes (never “radio”, please !!!).

The ultimate sanction, of course, is for one to leave this modern-day World and seek a Trappist Monastery, where the use of “Yeah I Mean Look You Know” is, either, extremely restricted (or Verboten) or only mentioned in Latin (please, God).

INNIT ? NOWHAMEEN ? SORTOF. LIKE. INNIT ?

FrB. said...

"... I feel disappointed that people who live in Scotland or Northumberland so often nowadays feel compelled to adopt a distinctive linguistic habit common to those who live near the Estuary of the Thames."

Which habit is that? I'm a bit slow upstairs these days as I recover from a blast of Covid.

Unknown said...

When I worked for the BBC, the late Jimmy Kingsbury, Presentation Editor of Radio 2 at the time said that, and I quote, "It's not up to the listener to guess what you're saying, it's up to you to tell them precicely,!"
I've always remembered those wise words but I'm increasingly frustrated by having to guess what some people mean when their poor use of English or heavy accent renders what they're saying largely incomprehensible.
A decent standard of English should not be beyond the capability of most speakers who wish to impart their knowledge or opinion on the rest of us.

√Čamonn said...

These kind of expressions lack the charm of Wodehouse but have the same content: "Well, I mean to say, what! Absolutely!"

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

I have a bugbear bigger than any dinosaur ever existing.

It is this - uncountable are the number of people who being sentences with "So"

"So" appears to be the necessary rhetorical engine that must be started to pull begun it a train of nouns, verbs etc.

I know Pope Francis says that Capital Punishment is wrong but I think of Mastro Titta whenever I hear some man say "So, I was talking with.."

Matthew said...

Dear Father, I agree absolutely, but did I notice that strange double adverb "overly" somewhere in your post? Isn't "over" adequate on its own?

vetusta ecclesia said...



And let’s not the somewhat bathetic closer “ And yeah”.

The Ancient Professor said...

Perhaps we not only need to know what someone’s pronoun is, but also what their personal starter is?
Be that as it may, when defending my doctoral dissertation in December 1981, I greatly impressed the outside reader—a history professor—because I did not start any of my answers with the word “well”. But it was only because I was so nervous that I took a deep breath and decided what my first sentence was going to be before I opened my mouth.

Anita Moore said...

Starters are an interesting phenomenon. I find myself wondering whether any of the great Roman orators, such as Cicero, had anything to say on this subject. As a classicist, Father, what can you tell us about this? That would make for a fascinating post.

Art McCulloch said...

My favorite was heard over 50 years ago from an 80 rear old Dixie Belle, "Ah ventcha' to say, and Ah know Ah'm right."

PM said...

The Ancient Professor is onto something. The meaningless waffle of most 'starters', I suspect, is a device to give oneself time to think of an answer. Fr Hunwicke may be able to confirm this, but a retired teacher once told me that he used to polish his spectacles for the same reason.

But like, you know, like, I'm like seriously like cheesed off, like, that you haven't, you know, like, mentioned like.

Bfbpuzzled said...

Are you dealing here with an “initial inverted subjunctive”? This indicates humility to the unwary and acts as a warning light to the aware. One of my favourites from students or young people when asked a question is the answer “I’m not really sure” meaning “I don’t know”

I suspect that you refer to Scots cutting off the end of words as per the Estuarine, I have not noticed that here just to the north of the Antonine Wall where the Romans who had walked from the Mediterranean decided to go no further for various reasons; the dreich weather the wee blue men, the ubiquitous female midge and other weapons.

WGS said...

My "favorite" meaningless comment that I have been subjected to is "You never know. You know."

The Rev. Susan Creighton said...

I am grateful for the above learned comments giving me the term "starter". The one I hear so often on American media is "Well,...." I fear I may fall into that trap from time to time myself, especially when answering someone's question. However, (Is "However,..." another 'starter' I wonder?) since I've found myself musing about whether the "well" we hear so often is an effort to be regarded a "deep" thinker, or perhaps it is a way of saying "my speech, my personal being is physically 'well'". Perhaps we should draw on the wisdom of Julian of Norwich's wisdom when she says, "All manner of things will be well."

Jesse said...

Years ago, a host on CBC Radio 1 (Canada's pale imitation of BBC Radio 4) recalled that one of his predecessors had rung a bell every time a politician interviewed on the programme began a sentence with "Well, ..." He then played an assemblage of audio clips of politicians beginning their sentences with the 1990s equivalent: "Basically, ..."

Today, it is "So, ..." Tomorrow, it will be something else.

("So" was already noticed by Fr. Hunwicke in a post sometime over the past year, I believe, when he wrote "So," followed by a Latin phrase equivalent to something like, "As the young people say nowadays." But I haven't been able to locate it through the search box.)

Grant Milburn said...

For the 14th of February 2021 our esteemed host has a post on Quinquagesima, in which he translates part of a sermon by Pope Gregory the Great. The Pope does not have the most polished style of all the Latin orators; Father gives some of his fillers in the original (ecce enim, quippe, tamen) and provides English equivalents (now look, y'see, y'know). Endearing.

wonastow said...

'Judge Judy' is an American reality-TV Courtroom show. The eponymous Judge calls words like "basically" fillers. She also tartly snaps "Um is not an answer."

Gaius said...

The eponymous Judge calls words like "basically" fillers.

That's the name I was taught back in my English A-level days.

Their main purpose is generally to give the speaker a bit more time to think of what to say, whilst also signifying that the speaker is actually going to say something so can anyone else in the conversation please refrain from leaving or starting to speak instead.