I did my masters in English Literature long ago from Government College, Ludhiana. My friend Ajit Prasad Jain and I shared the same bench in the class – in the last row. One of our lecturers who taught us kept us engaged in a rather unusual manner. He had a habit of repeating two words – ‘well’ and ‘you know’, almost in every sentence.
We did not have a counter at that time. Nor did we have a stop watch. But we gave ourselves a task of keeping track of how many times the lecturer would repeat the word ‘well’ and ‘you know’ during the period of 45 minutes. The wager was simple. If the professor repeated ‘well’ more than ‘you know’ Ajit would pay for our tea and samosa in the tuck-shop (college canteen) and in case ‘well’ left ‘you know’ behind, I would have to foot the bill.
It appeared to be a never ending game; and it kept our interest high in the prose lecture of our dear Professor. None of us or any other student in the class had the guts to point out and say to him, “Sir, 15-20 % of what you speak in class comprises just of two words – ‘well’ and ‘you know’.
These days too I find that a lot of professionals who come to me for improving their communication skills have similar habits. Filler words, are intruders who reduce the efficacy of speech. I still encounter, ‘You know’, though ‘well’ is not commonly used these days. But the most repetitively used words these days are – ‘like’, ‘basically’, ‘actually’ etc. Besides, other common intruders are – and, eh, uh, etc. In the first session itself I ask my students to remove these intruders (filler words and sounds) from their speech.