Um. . .: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean

Front Cover
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Aug 21, 2007 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 320 pages
1 Review
This original, entertaining, and surprising book investigates verbal blunders: what they are, what they say about those who make them, and how and why we've come to judge them.Um... is about how you really speak, and why it's normal for your everyday speech to be filled with errors—about one in every ten words. In this charming, engaging account of language in the wild, linguist and writer Michael Erard also explains why our attention to some blunders rises and falls. Where did the Freudian slip come from? Why do we prize "umlessness" in speaking—and should we? And how do we explain the American presidents who are famous for their verbal stumbles? Full of entertaining examples, Um... is essential reading for talkers and listeners of all stripes.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

What people are saying - Write a review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

Truly a journey down memory lane for any one who speaks. Don't we all bloop, spoon, and malaprop all over the place? I especially enjoyed the history of Ralph Smedley and Dale Carnegie with their belief that every man (yes, man) should be educated to speak well, not only the preachers and the lawyers. And their dogged determination at democratization of education.
Toastmasters today still exemplifies this, whether at my Clearwater club Bagel Talk or at any other of the 13,000 world-wide, including nearly 5,000 corporate clubs. We all blunder through our daily lives, but the opportunity to get better among like-minded club members shows that Michael Erard was right when he wrote Um it is human nature and can be addressed when understood.


The Life and Times of the Freudian Slip
Some Facts About Verbal Blunders
What We uh Talk About When We Talk About uh
A Brief History of Um
Well Spoken
The Birth of Bloopers
Slips in the Limelight
Fun with Slips
President Blunder
The Future of Verbal Blunders
Recommended Reading
A Field Guide to Verbal Blunders
Slips Versus Disfluencies

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2007)

Michael Erard, a graduate of Williams College, received an M.A. in linguistics and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Texas. His articles about language have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, Science, Seed, The Texas Observer, and many other publications. His website is He lives in Austin, Texas, and Portland, Maine.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Bibliographic information