NOTE:  This was written in November ’14, for a speech in Toastmaster Club because in my last speech I had been rounded criticized, deservedly so, for saying “you know” excessively.  So just for fun, I tried to offer this excuse.  I don’t think I convinced them.  You know some cohorts can be stubborn critters!

Do I sound like a teacher? Well, that’s like, I mean to say, that’s who I am, you know! Are you with me? To be honest, you know, words are beautiful! You know what I mean? As a matter of fact, many expressions serve very pragmatic functions which add color and excitement to what might be dull, dry, and dead. You with me?

So in this “defense of a much-maligned, pragmatic, parenthetical expression” I’m arguing for the right to say “you know.”

My defending “you know” reminds me of the mother who watched her son in a boot camp march. She said, “Oh, look, everybody is out of step except Johnny!” I’m not saying everyone is wrong except me, but, you know on the other hand, I don’t plan to eliminate all my “you knows.” Let me tell you why. “You know” is a parenthetical expression just like these phrases: as a matter of fact, to be honest, and you understand.

1. When I want to confirm to my audience that I am aware I am telling them something they already know. For instance: It is so hot in August, you know, I am planning to set aside extra funds to vacation at Yellowstone Park during that month.

2. When you want to soften criticism. For instance: You know, you really shouldn’t text while driving.

3. When you want your audience to identify with your imagery. For instance: When the man drove through my yard, you know, he dug ruts that will last all season.

4. When clarifying. For instance: I’m going to buy a new car; you know, one of those elite styles that make people think I can afford it.

5. When used like a question. For instance: Every grandmother has the most beautiful grandchildren in the world, you know?

Um, I agree, filler words can be very distracting if they are just thrown in to cover a pause when choosing a particular word or thought. I once counted 37 “you knows” in a thirty minute presentation. That’s excessive and irritating.

I have deliberately gone overboard with my “you knows” in this presentation to prove that point. Excessive and irritating!

So seriously —

As a helpful hint, if you would not write “you know” in an essay, it probably should not be used in a spoken presentation either. But if you, like, really, um, er, mean “you know” then use “you know.”

About oneta hayes

ABOUT ME Hello. To various folks I am Neat’nee, Mom, Grandma Neta, Gramma, Aunt Neta, Aunt Noni, Aunt Neno, and Aunt Neto (lots of varieties from little nieces and nephews). To some I’m more like “Didn’t you used to be my teacher?” or “Don’t I know you from someplace?” To you, perhaps, I am a Fellow Blogger. Not “fellow” like a male or a guy, but “fellow” like a companion or an adventurer. I would choose to be Grandma Blogger, and have you pull up a chair, my website before you, while I tell you of some days of yore. I have experienced life much differently than most of you. It was and is a good life. I hope to share nuggets of appreciation for those who have gone before me and those who come after me. By necessity you are among those who come after me and I will tell you of those who came before. Once upon a time in a little house on a prairie - oops, change that lest I commit plagiarism - and change that “house on the prairie” to “dugout on the prairie.” So my story begins...
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  1. floridaborne says:

    It is unfortunate that when we are saying “you know” or “like” or “um” we don’t hear ourselves saying it. I like listening to a talk show, but no matter how good the host is, if s/he says filler words excessively, I have to turn it off. The only thing worse is the “F” word spoken as if it somehow makes the sayer (or writer) feel more powerful.

    • oneta hayes says:

      I’m with you are the way! Filler words are distracting, but generally they do not mean the speaker does not have a sufficient vocabulary. They are more of an indication of nervousness or lack of practice. The “F” word used in every part of speech is most often an indication of a lack of vocabulary – and a lack of decorum. Thanks for the comment.

  2. says:


  3. SarahC says:

    You know what I mean……lol that’s even worse. You know!

  4. Faye says:

    One of the things I most like about southern American speech is often the inclusion of ‘you ‘all’ in to ordinary conversations. I once heard it in a sermon twelve times scattered through ae powerful sermon. ‘you all must know what I’m saying.’ ‘You all should take more time to pray! etc etc..
    However, the habit of many young folk when talking usually extremely fast is to pattern all dialogue with with so many ‘like’ and ‘basically’ insertions I do wonder what sort of grammar is being taught at schools all over the world and indeed if any one teaches elocution (or has classes where students say long passages of Shakespeare to train the tongue to speak clearly
    What do you think Oneta? Are we all losing the art of voicing and speaking clear concise language? .

    • oneta hayes says:

      Aw, yes. I mentioned Shakespeare in a comment to someone today. Reading him orally would be great to practice one’s elocution. I do believe people are sloppy with their speaking; however, I don’t know for sure that it is not my hearing loss that contributes to my judgment. I guess I do the “you all” in casual conversation. I would not write it. Wouldn’t pass my own test. 😀

  5. ghostmmnc says:

    This was pretty funny to show how annoying those repeated phrases are. We hear ‘like’ way too much when on TV they are interviewing someone. 🙂

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