Ominous "Umm"

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A nice example of "um" as a discourse particle — from Jennifer Rubin, "What might finally ensnare Trump", WaPo 9/20/2019 [emphasis added]:

This would be the perfect example of conduct that might not technically be a crime but is obviously and blatantly a violation of the president’s oath of office and a threat to our democratic system. Former prosecutor Renato Mariotti tweeted, “If Trump promised foreign aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigating Biden’s son, that is obviously corrupt and should meet any definition of a ‘high crime’ for impeachment.”

Meanwhile, Giuliani made a wild appearance on CNN. Amid the accusations and insults, he acknowledged that “of course” he asked Ukraine to look into Biden. Umm. That’s a problem.

For some earlier discussion, see

"And uh — then what?", 1/5/2004
"Um/uh geography", 8/13/2014
"Uh", 8/12/2016
"Um, tapes?", 1/29/2019


  1. Andrew Usher said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 7:24 am

    I do not want to hijack any of the other threads, so I'll take this one and hope someone is reading it.

    I'm finding it difficult and tiring to keep up with some threads here (why I've left for substantial times before), and I can see that other will find it difficulat and tiring to follow my posts that seem longer than necessary.

    There is a solution to this, as good as it can be solve: threading. When I came online everything was threaded – Usenet, e-mail, and the first web forums – and almost immediately it became obvious why this was right (along with related conventions).

    In fact, that was – that was the one useful truly new advance the net ever made in human communication – and we've pissed it away. Everyone, the big tech companies not innocent, thought it better to accommodate the 'newbies' that might not be used to threaded discussion,, by dumbing it down essentially, rather than the people the really understood the the internet's capability to the fullest. And no matter what was intended the result was just plain evil, a catastrophe that will have permanent consequences.

    To see such a step taken forward, then permanently back again, is a punch to the gut.

    Andrew Usher
    k_over_hbarc at

  2. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    September 24, 2019 @ 11:21 am

    I, too, prefer threaded discussions. Much easier to follow.

    I also wish that we could again subscribe to comment threads and be notified of replies.

  3. Andrew Usher said,

    September 25, 2019 @ 7:07 am

    Yes, but I'm sure you can't feel the emotional impact that I do. This isn't something that just came to mind – though I wrote it quickly – but something that's bothered me for maybe twenty years.

  4. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    September 25, 2019 @ 7:43 pm

    Why do you assume that someone else can't feel the emotional impact you do?

  5. Andrew Usher said,

    September 26, 2019 @ 6:55 am

    I think the context sufficiently answers that. I can see things in a way no one else does. I have other reasons, too, for thinking Usenet was fantastic, which I've found it seems no one cares about or wants to understand.

  6. Benjamin E Orsatti said,

    September 26, 2019 @ 7:39 am

    "I can see things in a way no one else does." C'mon, you can't just leave that great big matzoh ball hanging out there without unpacking it! Go on, 'splain.

    Also, I am interested in learning about the magic of Usenet — by the time I got my first computer in college in '97, Usenet was apparently at a low ebb, so I never really discovered it. What's the attraction?

  7. Andrew Usher said,

    September 26, 2019 @ 6:17 pm

    The 'magic' of Usenet came from its decentralised nature. Usenet was not only not censored, but could not be censored (most spam was removed by an automated program, but only that), and no one could be said to have a legal obligation to do so. This made everyone equal in discussion, and the atmosphere of free speech meant everyone would be more open than otherwise. Further, there was only one Usenet that (at one time) nearly everyone interested in talking on the net used, so you had a better chance of finding _someone_ willing to discuss anything you wanted, and freely. There was never the problem that the only forum for a certain subject won't allow certain opinions or is run by a bully or other person you'd rather avoid. That is what we've lost; again, there seems to be no possibility of getting it back.

    As for the first question, it's a long story. I considered it, but it seems just too much (in both senses) to talk about here in public. But if you would oblige your apparent curiosity, you could e-mail me and I could practically talk all day.

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