Men Say ‘Uh’ and Women Say ‘Um’

By Olga Khazan
Olga Khazan
Olga Khazan
August 26, 2014 Updated: August 28, 2014

Um, guys. I have some information to share with you, and fair warning, it’s, uh, going to make you scrutinize your speech for several days. 

You know when you’re searching for a word, or trying to say something more nicely than you actually mean it, or trying to make up your mind after you’ve already started speaking? Whether you reach for an “um” or an “uh” in those situations might depend on whether you’re male or female.

Back in 2005, linguist Mark Liberman, who works at the University of Pennsylvania, found that usage of “uh” increases with age, but at every age, men say it more than women do. Meanwhile, usage of “um” decreases with age, but female speakers said it more than male ones at each stage in life:

Epoch Times Photo
Frequency of uh/um usage, by age, indexed to the frequency of the usage of “the.” (Mark Liberman)

 Liberman also posits that “um” and “uh” portray language fluency and intelligence differently. “People tend to use UM when they’re trying to decide what to say, and UH when they’re trying to decide how to say it”. As people get older, they have less trouble deciding what to say (because they know more stuff), and more trouble deciding how to say it. As a result, older people use fewer UMs and more UHs.”

This article was originally published on Read the complete article here.

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