Emma Thompson has caused a stir by, like, complaining about yoof slang creeping into every day speak. Like saying ‘like’, ‘innit’, that sort of thing. Apparently its sloppy, and makes you sound, well, stupid. Others have waded into the debate saying ‘street speak’ is fine, has always happened, that one of the main people who flouted language rules and made up new words was some bloke called Shakespeare.
I’m not here to talk about grammar though.
What I am interested in is the idea of filler words. John Ayto of the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang (reported by BBC News) said that using words like ‘like’ is a normal way of stalling a sentence, giving yourself time to think. Like saying ‘um’. In our highly grammatical speech sometimes we just need to slow down and we make noises to hide from the silence.
Now think about prayer. How often when praying out loud do we hear ourselves using filler words that sound so holy but are really just fillers, or punctuation, sounds we make to fill the silence. Does this sound familiar:
Lord, we just pray that Spirit you would come, Jesus, we just pray that you would move Lord, father we ask this in jesus name.
We really only needed to say hello.
So easily we can fill our prayers with words. But in prayer there is no need for filler words. Sometimes there’s no need for words at all.
The thing is, there is nothing inherently wrong with these words, and the last thing I would want is the grammar police making people even more frightened of praying out loud than ever. We (just) need to think about our words, our theology of the Trinity, our use of the word ‘just’; to pray what we mean, and pray it once instead of repeating the same sentence 3 times to make our prayer seem more earnest.
Even so, if when you pray, you need to use filler words then use them, because better to pray and, like, give ourselves time to think and stuff; to punctuate our sentences with the names of the Trinity; to confuse God with random sentences; better all those and more, than never to pray at all.
So maybe this whole post was filler.