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Annoying Speech Mannerisms

Every speaker of a language has their own individual manner of speaking, and this extends beyond pronunciation to include word choice and syntax. Some features of an individual’s speech habits may be considered annoying to one’s interlocutors or audience, thus coming under the compass of what are called mannerisms. Of course, what one person regards as an annoying mannerism in another’s speech may be highly subjective and therefore not shared by all interlocutors or hearers. The frequency with which a mannerism tends to occur obviously has an impact on its assessment as annoying. In fact, any feature of speech that is highly repetitious is in itself liable to be perceived as a mannerism and evaluated accordingly as an annoying habit.

An example of the latter is the constant introduction at the beginning of practically every other utterance of the word look, which has the force of peremptoriness and condescension toward one’s interlocutor. This annoying habit can be heard with unfailing regularity in the responses of the NPR commentator Cokie Roberts on Monday broadcasts of the program “Morning Edition.” The fact that what follows this interjection is a string of commonplaces being paraded as insights does nothing to allay its noisome effect.

MICHAEL SHAPIRO

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