Disfluencies in Nonfiction
From a Washington Post website article on typography for twitter:
Griffiths had a question for us, too.
I don't know how you want to characterize that. I will try, in a minute. But it pretty flagrantly violates the basic norm that the news media is presenting information as clearly and concisely as possible.
“I mean, with all the stuff that’s going on right now, especially on a platform like Twitter,” he asked, “isn’t the typography the least of your worries?”
Well, yes, but it is a Friday on a holiday weekend and it’s an interesting question and, just: come on, man.
Those extra words would be natural in dialogue; disfluencies can signal a variety of things, and they can give voice. But there's no voice (and no characters or dialogue) in a news report.
That leaves us wondering what it communicates.
Trend? This is from the same day, again Washington Post.
But the “Access Hollywood” comparison doesn't really help Moore's case because everything The Post reported about the tape last year was demonstrably true, since, you know, there was a tape.
This one I think I can characterize. "you know" creates a pause, for effect. I think "wait for it" could be substituded (although apparently this phrase is considered out of fashion). A "well" would have created a pause too, although I think without the exact same meaning.
Or not out of fasion. From Slate, their link to an article on Nov. 13:
Sessions is Considering Second Special Counsel Targeting, Wait for It, Hillary Clinton
We can rule out the other reasons for uncertainty. There is no pretense that the speaker was actually pausing to think of which words come next. Or that the author was tring to sound like a teenager. Extra words often occur when someone starts speaking, helping to orient the listener to who is talking, but that obviously wasn't happening.
That leaves some sort of delay, perhaps for humor or irony. In the first example, "just" served a similar role.
I saw, the following the same day but in a forum. The author was using erotic writing in general/abstract as an example, and wrote
(not mentioning details because...just no)
I think I can characterize this too -- it's a pivot. He was talking in one direction, then switched directions. Here it is marked by an ellpsis, the standard way of showing a pause. In the first example, the pivot occurs at the colon.
So I will call this a triple: First, the use of empty words in nonfiction. Second, they can be used to create a pause needed for humor. Third, because the author is making complete pivot midsentence. A pivot in nonfiction is necessarily informal.
Here's another pivot:
There has always been the potential that the Russian government could flip a switch and reverse the polarity of its interference, because why not?
Found Nov. 11, 2017