About Um

um-full-book-cleanThis original and entertaining book is a natural history of things we wish we didn’t say (but do), as well as a look at what happens in American culture (and others) when we do (and wish we didn’t).

Covering a vast array of verbal blunders, from Spoonerisms to malapropisms to “uh” and “um,” linguist and author Erard creates a unique narrative blend of science, history, pop culture, and politics that gets at what really matter when we speak — and when we listen.

One exceptional chapter is about where the notion that good public speaking is always umless comes from; another chapter explains why Sigmund Freud (and a lot of other people in late 19th century Vienna) were obsessed with errors. What do “uh” and “um” really mean? And can we do with out them? Another chapter looks at the media empire that Kermit Schafer created from bloopers.

Full of entertaining examples, Um… is essential reading for talkers and listeners of all stripes.


Praise for Um

…An enjoyable tour of linguistic mishaps… …Rewarding.”

…Challenges the reader to think about his or her own speech in an entirely new way.”

Mr. Erard’s enthusiasm for his subject is infectious. He gets you wondering about blundering.”

…An absorbing survey of the (mis)spoken word, from ancient Egyptian cases of speechlessness to television bloopers…”

…A fascinating look at those two-letter words we all know and, uh, overuse.”

You can feel when an author is enjoying himself, and Erard’s survey of these most common of dysfunctions in our dysfunctional society is written with unexpected humor, grace and high spirits.”

Who’d have thought that a book called Um could be a page-turner? But Michael Erard’s investigtions of “applied blunderology” come to something more than the familiar catalogues of verbal slips and gaffes from the high and the low. It’s also a fascinating meditation on why blunders happen, and what they tell us about language and ourselves. At its deepest level,  Um is an exercise in the zen of attention, which tunes us in to the revealing noises and pauses that we spend most of our time tuning out.”