Quiet Desperation

You know, there may be, you know, something there


Do you know anyone, you know, who says “you know” excessively?

Watching a documentary the other night, I started counting the number of times a commentator said “you know.”

He reached 14 during one short stretch.

However, if I blocked out the “you knows” (a near impossibility) he made many good points, which raised the question about form vs. content.

Is it forgivable to overlook hems, haws, uhs, and other filler words, if, nevertheless, there’s significant content?

Is it forgivable when the English language is taken for a ride in car with four flat tires, if there are genuine insights and observations that provide meaning, wisdom or humor?

The answer, of course, is yes.

Take “Huckleberry Finn.” Take the Joads, who weren’t exactly scholars in “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Purists would probably want Bob Dylan to go back and add a “g” to all of his gerunds.

Saying “you know” apparently give the speaker time to think of what to say next.

Many of us can think faster than we can talk. Consider your ability to form an intelligent comment extemporaneously. It’s almost a miracle.

It’s a snap if you have a script.

Winging it, off the cuff, takes some doing.

No one writes with interjections such as “you know” or “uh.”

(Did you know that “uh” is a legitimate Scrabble word?)

This column will take up to an hour to write. If I were to be interviewed instead, I might triple the number of words in half the time.

Writing enables me to take my time, proofread, edit, and edit some more until what I have written is expressed to the best of my ability.

Stick a microphone in front of me and I might say “you know” and not even know it, which I think was the case with the man in the documentary.

He was discussing Eric Clapton’s output in the 1970s in luminous terms that were littered with “you knows,” referred to as “acknowledgment words.”

I’m sure I have said “you know,” but not 14 times in two minutes.

There was an art history teacher, a distinguished man who had written art history texts, who lectured from a lectern.

He couldn’t get from one end of a sentence as short as this one to the other without saying “uh” two or three times.

Try listening to that for an hour.

I couldn’t. I began to keep track.

Art historians are a lot of fun. They always require a book they’ve written.

One of the presidential candidates has talked about his boyhood stutter.

One of the presidential candidates seemingly talks without filtering his thoughts.

As we age, many of us lose our fluency.

I watched Johnny Carson, the late night talk show host, lose his fluency.

Instead of crisp and clean monologues, they turned into garbled ones.

Carson’s gift for recovery, however, saved him. He’d tap the overhead microphone when they were no laughs and ask, “Is this thing on?”

There was a Time magazine article written by an author who knew the day would come when he would be “unable to make the connections” as he wrote.

The next sentence wouldn’t come to him as easily as it once did.

In art classes we were taught form and content are equally important. I have since learned it’s not always true.

But you know that, don’t you?

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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