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"Know What I'm Sayin'?" Please help!

Posted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 3:57 pm
by rogerwimmer
Doc: I'm a PD at a Classic Rock radio station and one of our jocks has picked up the habit of saying, "Know what I'm saying" after just about everything he says. For example, he was just in my office this morning and said, "The remote this Friday is going to be great, know what I'm sayin'?"

Unfortunately, he has carried this habit over to his on-air speaking and it's very annoying. Some listeners have even called to ask why he says it after almost everything he says. I have talked to him and even played him recordings of him on the air, but nothing seems to work to get him out of the habit. He knows he says the phrase a lot and would like to stop saying it, but he says he doesn't even realize he says it when he does say it. Does that make any sense? Any ideas? I would appreciate your help if you can come up with something. - JK

JK: Notice: This is not a short answer, so you may want to get a few cans of your favorite beverage to drink while you're reading.

I am sure you noticed that I edited your question a bit. I don't think I changed the meaning of anything you wrote, but please let me know if I did. On to your question . . .

The approach I'm going to suggest has close to a 100% guarantee of success, but I'll get to that in a moment. First, we need some background information.

While the use of any word or phrase can become habit-forming, two phrases in the English language are particularly prevalent: "Know what I'm saying" and "You know." Both of these phrases are called a variety of things including, but not limited to, "discourse markers," "interactional queries," "catch phrases," "vocal tics," "speech tics," "discourse tics," or simply "speech habits." But there is an easy way to get a person to changes his/her speaking patterns or habits.

Encouraging (forcing) someone to stop using one of the phrases requires three steps:

1. The person must recognize that he/she uses the phrase repeatedly.
2. The person must have a desire to stop using the phrase.
3. Every use of the phrase must be acknowledged with an "intervention."

I'll focus on "Know what I'm saying," but keep in mind that everything discussed also relates to "You know."

I'll use a personal experience to demonstrate how this works. A friend of mine was "hooked" on "Know what I'm saying." When he was talking, every time he used the phrase, I said, "No." So, a typical conversation went like this:

"What did you do over the weekend?"
"A bunch of us went to the club on Saturday. Know what I'm saying?"
"You just asked me if I knew what your were saying and I said, 'No.'"
"So what happened at the club?"
"Ah, we just messed around, but it was fun, know what I'm saying?"
"You just asked me if I knew what your were saying and I said, 'No.'"
"Right. OK, so we stayed until 3:00 a.m. and I was really tired, know what I'm saying?"
"You just asked me if I knew what your were saying and I said, 'No.'"

OK. I think you get the idea. Whenever the person, the jock in your case, uses the phrase (remember this also includes "You know") say, "No," or even "No I don't." After a few dozen times of hearing those two responses, the target of your intervention will get frustrated and will probably stop using the phrase. It may take a few days, but my experience is that some people will stop using the phrases in less than one day. It helps a lot to have several people involved in the "intervention." In your case, you may want to have other people at the radio station involved who say, "No" to your jock's use of the phrase, or maybe even the jock's family members.

Other comments . . .

I'm not sure who first used the phrase "Know what I'm saying," but it has become a commonly used phrase by many people and the pronunciation of the words has changed over time. Let's take a look at a pronunciation time line for the phrase. As a starting point, the first use of the phrase was (hypothetical):

Do you understand what I'm saying? or Do you understand what I just said?

which became . . .

Do you know what I'm saying?"

then to . . .

Know what I'm saying?

then . . .

Know what I'm sayin'?

then . . .


to . . .

Nomesane? (Say this quickly.)

Or even . . .


So, regardless of which pronunciation your jock uses, if he is serious about changing his speech habit, this approach is almost guaranteed to work because he will become frustrated with you and others saying, "No," or "No I don't" after every sentence he says ending with "Know what I'm saying?"

I searched the Internet a bit and found a very interesting example of someone repeatedly using a form of "Know what I'm saying" and I think your jock should watch it. The video is an interview with Kenyon Martin, a Denver Nuggets basketball player - click here. I actually don't know what he's talking about and he sounds like my oldest son.

Now, just like "nomesane," the pronunciation of the phrase "You know" has also changed over time. At first, the phrase was simple . . . "You know." That changed to "Ya know," followed by "Y'know," and finally to (for some people) "Y'o." I used an apostrophe to differentiate it from another American idiom, "Yo," which has a multitude of meanings. For example, "Yo" may be used as a greeting like "hello," "hi," "hey," or to even to get a person's attention - "Yo Jimmy!" Or it may be used to signify attendance, such as, "Jimmy, are you here?" "Yo." Or it may be used to voice agreement, such as, "Jimmy, are you going to the club tonight?" "Yo." Or it may be repeated as a form of strong agreement, such as, "Jimmy, isn't this the best club ever?" "Yo, yo, yo." Or it may be used to signify that something is correct, or to say a simple "yes," such as, "Jimmy, is Burger King two blocks away?" "Yo." And there are dozens more.

What complicates the interpretation of the word even further is the tone of voice used. For example, let's say Jimmy received an "F" on an exam and someone asks him, "Hey, Jimmy. Did you get an "A" on the test?" Jimmy might say, in a dejected or sarcastic tone, "Yo," which clearly would indicate that he did not receive an "A." The English language is goofy.

But there is more . . .

Unlike "nomesane," which is used primarily at the end of a statement, the phrase "You know" is used at the beginning, middle, or end of a statement. It gets rather ridiculous at times and one of the biggest "culprits" of "You know" overuse in the media is John Madden, former coach of the Raiders and color commentator for professional football. He actually uses the form "Y'o," not "You know" or "Y'know," and I remember him making a comment during a football game something like, "Y'o, Tomlinson ran right through, y'o the line and BAM right into the linebacker, y'o." What?

The y'o version of "you know" can lead to some interesting interpretations. For example, here is a possible conversation between a mother and son:

"Y'o mama. I won't be home for dinner tonight"
"What did you say? Did you say yo mama?"
"Yes. I said y'o mama. I won't be home for dinner tonight."
"Yo mama! Wash your mouth out with soap!"
"No. I said you know, mama, not yo mama."


Enough already. Please try the "intervention" approach with your jock. I think it will work if he is willing to give it a try . . . or even if he is not willing. The approach will demonstrate to him how much he uses the phrase and how annoying it can be to some people.

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Re: "Know What I'm Sayin'?" Please help!

Posted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 4:37 pm
by rogerwimmer
Hey Doc! Great tactic to use. I'll try the "intervention" with my best friend. You're a funny guy. Nomesane? - Anonymous

Anon: No I don't know what you're saying. Funny guy?

You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it's me. I'm a little messed up maybe, but I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh? I'm here to amuse you? What do you mean funny? Funny how? How am I funny? You said I'm funny. How the heck am I funny? What the heck is so funny about me? Tell me. Tell me what's funny!

(Sorry. Paraphrase of Joe Pesci in the 1990 movie, Goodfellas.)

Re: "Know What I'm Sayin'?" Please help!

Posted: Wed Nov 17, 2010 9:53 am
by rogerwimmer
The idea is to come up with something clever to say and never repeat yourself. - Anonymous

Anon: I agree. I think many on-air radio personalities forget that they are professional communicators. They aren't simply entertainers, jocks, news readers, or whatever their function is on the radio station.