Writers shun them. Public-speaking coaches hate them. They are hardly considered words at all. But sounds like "um," "ah," "er," "hmm," "huh" and even soundless hesitations and pauses are not the scourge on language that people make them out to be. In fact, they are the crucial traffic signals of language that make conversation possible.
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Written by Arika Okrent February 23, 2018
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