90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
How We’re Talking, Like, Today

Verbal tics, and what they say about us. “I’m just saying.” “To tell you the truth.” “As far as I know.”

Beyond the typical "kids these days" complaint, plenty of other language trends crop up regardless of age. (Erin Nekervis / Creative Commons)

Beyond the typical “kids these days” complaint, plenty of other language trends crop up regardless of age. (Erin Nekervis / Creative Commons)

They creep into your speech.  “I’m just saying…”  “To tell you the truth…” “I don’t mean to be mean, but…”  And then you deliver the blow.  “Your meal tastes awful.”  “Your presentation bombed.”  “You need to lose weight.”  Those wind-ups before the strike are called tee-ups.  We’ve been adding them to our speech for generations.  Most of us don’t even realize we’re doing it.  It can give tough judgments a veneer of politeness.  A ramp – “with all due respect” – to then take people down a notch – “you can’t go out looking like that.”   This hour, On Point: tee-ups and what they say about us.

Guests

Elizabeth Bernstein, Bonds columnists for The Wall Street Journal. (@EbernsteinWSJ)

James Pennebaker, professor and chair of the department of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. Author of “The Secret Life Of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us.” (@jwpennebaker)

Brandt Johnson, co-founder and principal of Syntaxis, a communications skills training firm in New York City. Author of “Presentation Skills For Business Professionals.”

Kenneth Baclawski, Jr., graduate student in linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley.

From The Reading List

Wall Street Journal: Why Verbal Tee-Ups Like ‘To Be Honest’ Often Signal Insincerity – “Certain phrases just seem to creep into our daily speech. We hear them a few times and suddenly we find ourselves using them. We like the way they sound, and we may find they are useful. They may make it easier to say something difficult or buy us a few extra seconds to collect our next thought. Yet for the listener, these phrases are confusing. They make it fairly impossible to understand, or even accurately hear, what the speaker is trying to say.”

Edmonton Journal: Why all the cray-cray words? – “Have I gone cray-cray, or has English become just a little too adorbs? Peeps are buying prezzies and making restaurant rezzies, they’re sharing email addies and eating bacon sammies with their swag boyfs. They’re getting jeal cos their hubs chatted up some hottie. They’re tweeting selfies and shelfies and drelfies, liking fails, hearting pics from their BFF’s winter vacay. Totes ridic! Obvs I get that language changes. ”

New York Times: They’re, Like, Way Ahead of the Linguistic Currrrve — “The idea that young women serve as incubators of vocal trends for the culture at large has longstanding roots in linguistics. As Paris is to fashion, the thinking goes, so are young women to linguistic innovation.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Dec 17, 2014
Relatives of a victim of a Taliban attack in a school, mourn over her lifeless body at a hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday, killing and wounding scores, officials said, in the highest-profile militant attack to hit the troubled region in months. (AP)

The Taliban take responsibility for killing more than 100 Pakistani schoolchildren. We ask why there, why now.

Dec 17, 2014
Germany's Andre Schuerrle, left, celebrates scoring his side's 6th goal as Brazil's goalkeeper Julio Cesar reacts during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between Brazil and Germany at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Tuesday, July 8, 2014.  Germany went on to win the World Cup championship later that month. (AP)

From the Sochi Olympics and Ray Rice to Lebron’s return to Cleveland, we’ll unpack a big year in sports.

RECENT
SHOWS
Dec 16, 2014
A still from Amanda Brown's documentary film, "Black Heirlooms." (Courtesy the FIlmmaker)

The documentary “Black Heirlooms,” tells the story of how inheritances, even humble ones, can tear families apart. We talk to the director.

 
Dec 16, 2014
Supermodel Beverly Johnson. (Courtesy Beverly Johnson)

Supermodel Beverly Johnson is the latest woman to accuse Bill Cosby. She joins us.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Cosby Accuser Beverly Johnson: ‘He's A Black Man. I Had To Separate The Trayvon Martins, The Michael Browns From What Happened To Me’
Tuesday, Dec 16, 2014

Beverly Johnson accused comedian Bill Cosby of drugging her in a high-profile Vanity Fair column. She tells us why she waited so long to share her story, and why it was even harder to share now.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: December 12, 2014
Friday, Dec 12, 2014

On listener engagement, the meeting of trans-Atlantic royalty and the elusive origins of the chicken. (We promise this feed hasn’t been taken over the BBC…yet)

More »
Comment
 
Quinn Sullivan, LIVE In Our Studio
Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014

Fifteen-year old Quinn Sullivan is a humble, “ordinary” high school sophomore. But he’s also a blues guitar phenom. He brought his talents to the On Point studio today.

More »
Comment