‘Refrain’ or ‘Filler’? 05/11/2011

How was the talk by Consul General of the Russian Federationin Southern  India? Asked my husband soon after I returned from the meeting held at our Association.

It was wonderful and very informative, I said.

I don’t think it’s the first time you made such a statement, he  laughed.

No, but I really mean it this time, I stressed.

You know, he gave a bird’s eye view of  our neighbour, its peoples’ lifestyle, and
said  Burmese women were very hardworking and enterprising compared to their men folk who tend to take life easy. What is heartening I found  was despite their having an edge over men in several respects, the divorce rate in Burma it
appears was very small.

Perhaps Burmese  women are good managers and also  mastered the art of  ‘husband managing’ observed my husband tongue in cheek.

Well, it’s the way you look at it, but I think it is really creditable on the part of women  to keep their marriage intact  by not having  an ego clash with their spouses which is the main reason for a marriage to break up, I affirmed.

May be  he said indifferently.

You know, the diplomat who is a Russian spoke English very clearly  and distinctly, choosing every word carefully, I said in admiration of the speaker.

That’s what you expect of a  diplomat, don’t you think?  he  said.

You know, another thing that I noticed  about him was the total absence of   a ‘refrain’ or a ‘filler’ which everyone is  habituated to  while speaking  no matter whether the person is an Indian or a foreigner. Probably some use it a few times and others may have a greater sprinkling of this in their speech, I

Now. What is that supposed to be? He said stressing on ‘that’.

Well, it’s for you to figure it out. I am sure you  need not rack your brains too
much  to find the answer, I quipped.


n.meera raghavendra rao


9 thoughts on “‘Refrain’ or ‘Filler’? 05/11/2011

  1. V Raghavan

    I can think of some fillers like “at this point of time”, “much water has flown down the Ganga”, “we will cross the bridge, when we come to it”, “absolutely”, “sure, sure” and “etc. etc.”. Spoken Tamil has a number of fillers like “kandippa” and “paathinganna”! Are we talking about the same phenomenon?

  2. Prof. V.N.K.Kumar

    I have heard the following in many speakers : “See what I mean”, “You get the hang of it ?”, “Does this make sense to you?”, “Understood?”, “OK?”, “You agree to this?”, etc., etc.

    But in this skit I observed the use of a filler by you yourself — “You know”. You have used it three times !

  3. The refrain or fillers I commonly come across in speech ( one of which I deliberately used in my article) are : ‘you know,’ ‘do you understand?’ and ‘I mean. ‘ I think the No can be added to these.

  4. I just counted the number of times I began my replies with ‘you know ‘and ‘to be honest’ when I was interviewed on the TV soon after my first book ‘Madras Mosaic’ was launched. They were quite a number!

  5. Prof. V.N.K.Kumar

    What are fillers or crutch words ? Fillers are essentially sounds or words spoken to fill up the gaps in the speech more so in a formal interaction like an interview or public speaking. “Uh”, “like”, “You know”, “You see”, “well”, “I mean”, “right?”, “ok?”, are some of the fillers commonly used.

    We all use them at one time or the other. An occasional use of a filler word would go unnoticed like an occasional hiccup. But if you hiccup frequently, it will be noticed.

    But why do we use fillers at all when they are not beneficial ? You use them if you are hesitant or uncertain of what to say. At other times, fillers are unconsciously used especially when you are nervous or tensed up while speaking. In most cases the crutch word is a habit that one does not even notice until someone points it out.

    If you’ve found that you use fillers when you are searching for a word or a phrase, learn to substitute silence. During a pause, keep your eyes focused on a listener. Keep breathing. Once you’ve found the word you want, start speaking again. Such pauses usually last only a couple of seconds and will not disrupt your delivery the way fillers do.

    Listeners need pauses, in fact, small silences during which meaning and understanding form. An effective speaker plans and uses them to emphasize and control messages. As you prepare and rehearse your presentation, rid your speech of fillers but leave room for pauses. For both you and your audience, a silent pause holds meaning. Use every moment of your presentation to deliver that meaning so that your listeners walk away with your message instead of a count of the number of fillers that distracted them from it.

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