Posted by: brian | September 5, 2007

Undergrads are so annoying?

I’m sitting at a table in the union, blah blah words. There’s this kid behind me (not sure what he looks like) but he’s talking like this? With every sentence ending like a question? And I don’t really know the context of the conversation? but he’s saying things like, “You know, I don’t really um want to close any doors, you know?, I really want to keep my options open, like?” and “Yeah, like, that’s the only way I’d go to grad school is, like, if it was abroad, cuz I spent 12 weeks in France, you know, something something?” 50% of the vocalizations in that conversation are superfluous.

He’s talking to someone who apparently represents some group? and she’s saying, “So um we’ve been around for like 17 years (almost longer than either of them has been alive)?” Oh, I think it must be the Peace Corps or some similar organization?

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Responses

  1. Argh! I know what it’s for, but it still drives me nuts.

    Back when I was a trainer (you know, last week or so), I used to have to sit the trainees down and have a serious conversation about “continuation rise” (the intonation pattern you describe). It can be a signal to let others engaged in your conversation know that you’re planning on adding more to your utterance, and it can be a subconscious tool to keep listeners engaged in the exchange…but it can make you sound like an idiot. And if you’re trying to sell someone on an idea that they don’t want to believe, just maybe you don’t want to sound like you doubt your own words.

  2. Yeah, I was sitting there thinking about the role of that phenomenon in language, and landed roughly in the area of that conclusion. In addition to indicating additional imminent speech and to keep people paying attention, does it also sort of function as a shorthand way of saying, “Do you understand what I’m saying?” (for example, in a case where I’m talking about something that I’m not sure the listener is familiar with).

  3. It certainly does, along the lines of “I’m not just talking to hear my own voice, I want to be communicating with you, are you still okay with your end of the communication?”

    Hmm, interesting, I think I just realized why it is why some people in older age groups sound imperious in conversations. If this continuation rise intonation has become much more common in the last couple of decades (which I would guess it has) then there you go — I’ve become accustomed to conversation partners checking in with me periodically.

  4. I swear to god this kid sat behind us at a baseball game. Did he discuss STDs and his immense knowledge on the subject?

  5. He didn’t discuss STDs, but he did mention he’s in a frat, so he probably does have extensive knowledge in that area.


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