f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

September 6, 2007

um, i confess

Filed under: Book Reviews,Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 1:18 pm

Um the Book ..

With summer gone, it’s about time to take down that virtual hammock and try to put my, um, chronic procrastinating behind me. The first task is to create and stick to a Summer Fall To-Read List and Schedule. A realistic list, this time.

to-read list napHammock
and summer corn
growing, growing

…………………. by David Giacalone, Legal Studies Forum XXIX:1 (2005) Reprinted: Law in Popular Culture Collection, Univ. of Texas, Tarlton Law Library

Without a doubt, Michael Erard‘s new book “Um. . .: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean” (Pantheon, August 21, 2007) is at the top of my nonfiction To Read List. (I just reserved it at our public library, and hope it will arrive right after I finish “Taxi!: A Social History of the New York City Cabdriver,” by Graham Russell Gao Hodges.) National Public Radio featured Um last week in a book review segment, “Breaking Down the, Uh, Blunders of Speech” (All Things Considered, Sept. 1, 2007), and I knew that it was a Need-to-Read for me. You see, uh, some of my closest blood relatives do an awful lot of umming (my twin “yums” conistently) and I’ve always feared that the little annoying habit is deeply imbedded in my character, through nature and nurture.

Finding a cure — or, perhaps only an explanation — has been a secret hope of mine. Doing so through a book that Prof. Geoff Nunberg, University of California at Berkeley, calls a “page-turner” and “a fascinating meditation on why blunders happen, and what they tell us about language and ourselves,” is too much to resist.

In the book, journalist Erard categorizes blunders, investigates why we make them and serves up a generous amount of slips, malapropisms and even Bushisms. In his volume of “applied blunderology”, Erard “found that there are two main categories of blunders: slips of the tongue and speech disfluencies.’ A slip happens when a person loses control over their speaking, and disfluencies – which happen in every language – are interruption and pause fillers like ‘uh’ and ‘um’ that we think should constitute smoothly flowing talk.”

  • The most telling use of “um” that I could find here at f/k/a concerned felonious attorney Andrew Capoccia’s co-conspiring-lawyer-partner Howard Sinnott. Howard got on the stand at Capoccia’s criminal trial and, according to The Bennington Banner (March 24, 2005)“teared up telling the jury he expects to be disbarred for his crimes.” . . . “Seeing what I’ve done, I’m not sure I have, um,” he said, pausing and looking down, “the character to practice law.”

the um in her voice
before offering me
the senior discount

….. by Carolyn Hall – A New Resonance 2; Frogpond XXIII:2

Last month, Erard pinch hit at The Word column of The Boston Globe (“The Beast Within,” August 5, 2007; via Ben Zimmer, of Language Log, who I hope will soon give us his review of Um), and said:

” It’s typical to think of verbal blunders as embarrassing slip-ups that we should avoid. But I’ve just written a whole book about verbal blunders, and I find them fascinating. Why? Because they’re signs of the wild. Not in the sense of rough or savage, but because they’re pure and untameable. They provide a window into what humans really are: biological organisms who live in complex groups and have really amazing brains. Blunders of the verbal sort may seem like violations of the order of language, but in fact they’re spontaneous eruptions of the qualities that gave us this order in the first place.”

I’ve always loved Spoonerisms, and you can read or listen to an excerpt from Um‘s chapter “The Secrets of Reverend Spooner” at NPR, to see if Um belongs on your To-Read List.

schoolgirls take turns
mimicking a stutter–
March wind
. . . . . . ……… . . . . Barry George, Frogpond XXV:2

even for the tongue-tied
crow of the east…
spring’s first dawn


stuttering about
the olden days…
a cuckoo

tripping over the dog
night of winter rain

on the wrinkles of my hand…

today’s last voice
is raised . . .
summer cicada

…………………… Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

drunks stumble in and out of her .
like cartoon characters—
wet with fallen leaves
this dark road home

one lone cricket
louder than all the others—
not one of us
has ever found the words
to comfort the living

…………………… tanka by Andrew Riutta – from Simply Haiku (Spring 2006)

sudden lightning–
the street mime

………………. by michael dylan welch – snow on the water: The Red Moon Anthology Anthology 1997 of English-Language Haiku 1998 (Jim Kacian, Ed.)

winter fog
everyone crowds around
the mime

…………………………………………… by ed markowski

the mime
in our mittens

early Alzheimer’s
she says she’ll have . . .
the usual

……………………………… by John StevensonQuiet Enough (2004)

not on
the tip of my tongue –
the name of the pretty one

a third helping
of Thanksgiving politics
I bite my tongue

………………………………………………….. by dagosan

Um, I don’t quite know how to say this, but one book that I am not, er, excited about reading cover to cover is the well-critiqued “The Party of the First Part: The Curious World of Legalese,” by Adam Freedman (Henry Holt and Co., September 4, 2007). I’m simply too burnt out over the fight for the use of Plain English in the legal community, having fought it for three decades (see, e.g., this posting at the weblog shlep), and finding little entertainment value reading about Legalese or battles to defend or obliterate it. That’s too bad, since I’d like to keep Henry Holt publishers happy (I dream, someday, of “f/k/a the book,” which will bring my alter egos to life, while describing the travails of a consumer-client advocate and a Type A with chronic fatigue syndrome). In addition, I like Freedman’s “The Party of the First Part” Weblog, where you will find both information on his “Golden Gobbledygook Awards” — “a Prize for the best example of bad legalese” — and the “Legalese Hall of Shame“.

I’m also intrigued by Freedman’s 2003 book of short stories: “Elated by Details” He says: This collection won the Mayhaven Award for fiction. Bookslut.com called Elated by Details, “a collection of small gems aimed squarely at folks who remember Woody Allen’s longer prose pieces for The New Yorker.”


all tongue ..
the clam in the fire’s

tongue out
the boy guides a new airplane
round and round

…………….. by Randy Brooks
“tongue out” – The Heron’s Nest (VIII: 1, March 2006)
“all tongue” – School’s Out (1999)

... Afterthought (9 PM, Sept. 6, 2007): As is his wont, Robert Ambrogi has focused on three quite interesting topics today over at Legal Blog Watch, and has summarized the issues well, with useful links. See:

And, um, No Sex With Clients — or Their Mothers, which tells the story of Wisconsin lawyer Carlos Gamino (see Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). s[Note: As I argued four years ago, the Bar’s total “sexual relations ban with clients is overbroad“, treating lawyers and clients like children, and showing a sad inability to make distinctions. Nonetheless, it’s almost never a good idea to have sex with the parent of a minor client while you are still representing that client.]

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