Think hemming and hawing are signs of enervated elocution? Think again! In this NPR article found by Writer’s Relief, we learned that new linguistic studies show that “um” and “ah” and “uh” are much more than useless sounds:
The evidence shows we also may use these words intentionally as buffers before offering what are called dispreferred responses, or answers our conversation partners may not welcome. Let’s say a friend asks you to an event that you don’t wish to attend, and you’re about to decline. If you slightly delay that bad news by starting out with “uh” or “um,” that’s the conversation machine at work.
Learn more about how placeholder sounds work in conversation.