Pragmatic: adj. practical, as opposed to artistic, theoretical or idealistic
Particle: n. a unit of speech expressing some general aspect of meaning or some connective relation and including the articles, most prepositions and conjunctions, and some interjections and adverbs.
Caroline Kennedy, JFK’s only surviving child, tentatively tossed her hat into the political ring when Hillary Clinton left her NY senatorial seat open to become Secretary of State. Unfortunately, Caroline inherited the fabled name, but not the Kennedy silver tongue.
Among the albatrosses around her neck as a candidate was her inability to express herself clearly and succinctly. Her specialty is the phrase “you know,” which in two recent interviews she used 138 times and 200+ times.
You know, that’s hard to do!
In Toastmasters, you know, we have a person whose role at the meeting is to keep track of every speaker’s verbal stutters – um, uh, er, like, you know – and other elocution no-nos. By merely becoming aware of these verbal distractions, you know, it’s possible to reduce or eliminate them.
I thought they were just verbal tics, but “you know” is a special case about which someone actually wrote a doctoral thesis in 1980.
Linguists call “you know” a pragmatic particle, and it has its linguistic counterparts in many other cultures around the world.
“You know” typically occurs in face-to-face interactions, and can indicate discomfort. However, it can be used (usually unconsciously) as a mediator of social relations. “You know” implies an attempt to maintain an already close relationship with the person being addressed, to simulate shared views – or to establish such a relationship.
In the case of a political candidate, who wants to be seen as at the same level as The People or be persuasive about an issue, “you know” brings the listener in closer.
I still think the repetitious use of “you know” is annoying, sloppy, and unprofessional.
Before Caroline returns to the public eye she needs to detour through a year at a Toastmasters club. A club is easy to find (enter your zip code here) because most communities have at least one club – and some have dozens.