The Atlantic

Men Say 'Uh' and Women Say 'Um'

Our word-fumbles offer subtle clues about our personalities and intentions.
Source: Hannibal Hanschke / Reuters

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.

Our verbal pauses actually speak volumes: "Like," as eighth-grade English teachers will tell you, makes the speaker sound, even a difference as subtle as the one between "um" and "uh" provides clues about the speaker's gender, language skills, and even life experience.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic4 min read
A Historic NBA Championship for the Raptors
The Golden State Warriors were hampered by injuries, but the league’s newest victors were built to seize on the opportunity.
The Atlantic4 min readPolitics
Why Trump Uses Mock Spanish
When Donald Trump tweeted Thursday morning that Democrats “have gone absolutely ‘Loco,’” the most surprising thing about it was that he had never called anyone loco on Twitter before. There was a time last fall when Trump couldn’t stop using the Span
The Atlantic6 min readPolitics
The ‘Death Penalty’s Dred Scott’ Lives On
In 1987, the Supreme Court came within one vote of eliminating capital punishment in Georgia based on evidence of racial disparities. Instead, it created a precedent that civil-rights advocates have been fighting for decades.