Does it bug you when you’re speaking with someone, either in person or on the phone, and they seem to constantly be saying “ya know?”  I find it a sad comment on the lack of conversation skills amongst so many people:  they seem to have their mouth running faster than their brain, so the “ya know” inserted in mid-sentence gives the speaker time to take a breath and let their thinking catch-up!

During the early 1960s, I had a high school English teacher who emphasized vocabulary and word usage.  He did not like us saying “ah” or “um” during a sentence; commonly heard phrasing, at the time, in everyday conversation and political speeches.  Mr. Williams taught me in 10th grade, and again during my senior year; he has had a lasting impact on me.

Around 1973-4, I had my first memorable contact with someone who had a habit of using “ya know.”  She had married one of my brothers, and after he had moved the family to Delaware, I noticed that his wife would often end a sentence with “ya know.”  Eventually (after about 2yrs), it created an urge within me which I did ultimately yield to by saying “no, I don’t know!”  My wife wasn’t very pleased with my comment.

I see it on the news programs, if I watch them: interviews with athletes, celebrities and others, which are loaded with “ya know.”  Many of those being interviewed are looked-up-to by young people.  It’s a good thing for these celebs/stars that unscripted/unedited speaking is not how they earn their living!

Recently, I was listening to some recorded teleseminars by several individuals who are reportedly rather savvy in doing business on the internet.  I found that I was quickly distracted by the frequent, “ya know”, comments used by the interviewee;  so much so, that I may try to edit those words out of the mp3 files!

In the early days of computing, reliance on spell-checking software created some nightmarish results for companies.  I remember an incident which occurred in the Parking Office prior to my arrival in that unit.  A young female secretary had typed a letter responding to an outraged parent regarding some parking situation.  The letter was to be issued under a specific U of D Vice-President’s signature.  When the VP received his copy of the letter, which had already been sent to the parent, our walls shook!  Although, there were no SPELLING errors, the words on the paper were not the proper words (hypothetical examples: four, not for; by, not buy; new, not knew; or, knot instead of not).  Future letters never left our Department without a review by at least one supervisory level staff member.  Fortunately, additional layers of technology to check grammar and word usage are now available for purchase.

Maybe 20-25 years ago, instant messaging (IM) began the rapid, abbreviated, style of conversing which has now been supplanted by the wide-spread use of texting and Twitter;  these technologies are driving the way people, especially those from 13 to 30, engage in chatting with their friends.  While some might consider it conversation, I find it marginal at best.  And, when the message is sent to hundreds or thousands of people at a time it is broadcasting, not conversation — it can even become a form of SPAM that you enrolled in!

I believe that speaking in complete sentences, without “fill-in-the-blank” spaces, is imperative to the existence of a highly-functional society.  So, what will be the impact of our diminished capacity to have conversations, which exchange complex thoughts and ideas, on our society’s future?  Have we begun sliding backward?  Will employers find it impossible to find quality applicants for jobs in areas such as customer relations; applicants who will not need extensive training in the art of speaking intelligently?

What do you think:  are we witnessing the “dumbing-down” of our society?

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