Well, Let's See

I've noticed a pattern of speech recently. Now that I have, I can't not notice it.

The pattern first caught my attention while listening to a TV anchor interview some newsworthy person. I then began listening for it in other interviews, and heard it at least once or twice in every single one.

It goes like this:

Anchor: "Senator so-and-so, can you tell me why you abstained from that important vote?"

Senator so-and-so: "Well, I just wasn't convinced that either side presented a compelling argument."

Anchor: "So, you would abstain again if you were given a do-over?"

Senator so-and-so: "Well, none of us can go back in time, but I think I would."

You saw it, right? Senator so-and-so began his answers to both questions with Well.

It seemed completely unconscious and automatic, like saying "Bless you" when someone sneezes.

I was curious and did some research. What I read confirmed my feeling that it was not a conscious choice on the part of the speaker; rather it's a verbal filler, akin to "um" or "uh." It allows the speaker a split-second to gather their thoughts before providing an answer (which shows how impressively fast our minds can work).

Wondering whether this pattern appeared in casual conversation, I asked my husband a question:

Me: "What year was the biggest turning point in your life?"

Rob: "Well, that's hard to say. Maybe my senior year of high school."

Bingo! I then asked him 8 more questions; none of which he answered beginning with Well. So I've decided it's a speech pattern that is more common in interview situations (televised or not) where the interviewee is being judged on their answer.

Have fun listening for it!

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