Dear Figaro, I have a friend who says “you know” a couple dozen times in any 5 minute conversation. Why does she do this? How can it be stopped?Fred, from “Ask Figaro”
“You know” serves as a figure called a parelcon (pa-REL-con, meaning “redundancy”), a place-filler that gives the speaker’s brain a few more milliseconds to think. “Like” is a more common parelcon these days, and it has its uses in moderation.
“You know” is actually a parelcon from my generation. As I say in my book, my generation was (rightly) uncertain about its ability to communicate. “You know” means “Are you with me? Do you get what I’m saying?” “Like,” on the other hand, reflects a group too timid to stand firmly on one side of anything.
So how do you stop the non-stop parelcon?
- The Obnoxious Way: Say “Yes, I know” or “No, I don’t” every time he says “You know.” You will make your point, and he will hate you.
- The Supportive Way: Mention his problem and offer to help. Set up practice sessions where you beep a horn every time he says “You know.” This feedback method does work. Though he’ll probably end up hating you anyway.
- The Fun Way: Make it a drinking game. Gulp every time he says it. If he participates, he’ll be too drunk to hate you.