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word fluff

Filler and Fluff: a Linguistic Examination

I have a confession to make. When I was in school, I would wait to write term papers until the last minute. SHOCKER I KNOW. Every time I found myself over my laptop, struggling to come up with what to say, fueled only by coffee and sheer willpower, I would turn to filler. Some filler is better than others.

“History has evolved over time.”

“The answer may surprise you.”

“The Silk Road changed the world as we know it.”

All of this is filler and lame

Public speaking has its share of filler, as well. Linguistic studies have shown that the most common filler words in spoken English are um, uh, and ah. I picked ten videos in Parmonic’s extensive library and searched for these utterances. Here are some results:


Um Uh Ah Sum/video
Video 1 19 20 8 47
Video 2 10 2 9 21
Video 3 12 30 7 49
Video 4 7 5 15 27
Video 5 42 7 1 50
Video 6 5 10 2 17
Video 7 20 25 27 72
Video 8 11 16 15 42
Video 9 4 21 3 28
Video 10 42 8 17 67
Sum/Word 172 144 104

Total, there were four hundred and twenty instances of these utterances in the videos. At an average video length of one hour, we see an average of seven cases of um, uh, and ah per video. Of course, some videos had more than others, but this is relative to a person’s comfort speaking in public or recording themselves.

Next time you give a talk, think about how many times you um, uh, and ah!

Note: words were found using Parmonic’s machine-generated transcriptions.

Jacob Dent