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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Thu 05
Aug
2004

Um…

What Max Reckons Okay, that’s enough. At first I thought this was kind of funny. Then it wasn’t so funny, then it got irritating, and now it makes me want to hurt someone. I’m talking about the practice of starting a post with “Um.”

This is particularly virulent on technically-inclined mailing lists and forums. It goes like this: a person posts something—a comment, a question, anything—and some other guy thinks they’re wrong. But he doesn’t just come out and say that, oh no. First he says: “Um…” Like this: “Um… Word won’t run on Linux.”

This is meant to convey the impression that the initial post was so mind-numbingly stupid that at first he couldn’t believe it was actually meant in earnest. Then, as he began to phrase his reply, he had to pause to ratchet down his intelligence a few levels so that the drooling simpleton who had uttered such idiocy would be able to comprehend it. This created a pause which had to be filled by “Um.”

Only that’s not what happened at all. If you’re having an actual conversation with someone, sure, you might say “um.” But if you’re typing out a post, what the hell are you doing? Are your fingers operating independently of your brain? No! You’re just being an asshole!

Maybe I could deal with this if it only happened when genuinely brilliant people wrote messages to real morons. After all, geniuses aren’t supposed to have social skills. But it happens all the time. This is the exchange that finally sent me over the edge:

#1: Happily seen that Gentoo has released 2004.2. I’m now using 2004.0 and I wonder whether it is necessary for me to migrate to 2004.2 from 2004.0.

#2: Uh.. if you do an “emerge -uD world” then you too will have all the bonus’s of 2004.2…

#3: Really? I think simply doing this won’t change my /etc/make.profile. It’ll be still point to ../usr/portage/profiles/default-x86-2004.0, isn’t it?

#4: Um, its a symlink… change it to point to the new profile

No! No! Not “Um!” The first guy was right, goddamn it! You can’t “um” him when he’s right! What is this um doing? It’s a totally unjustified um!

This is a cancer of the internet, I tell you, and it’s got to be stopped. Please. I can’t take much more.

(P.S. If anyone writes me an e-mail like “Um… Word can run on Linux if you use an emulator,” I’m going to name a really bad character after them.)

Comments

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Galen (#1516)

Location: In a land far, far away, sometimes referred to as college.
Quote: ""It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious. " - Oscar Wilde"
Posted: 5032 days ago

Another epidemic spreading through the internet is the belief that 'lol' is a response that can be used for anything.

Person One: I saw the hottest guy today!
Loller: lol
Loller: Did you get a picture?

Was the 'lol' necessary? And yet it is everywhere:

Person Two: I think I failed chemistry.
Loller: lol
Loller: The class with the hot guy?

Max (#2421)

Location: ::1
Quote: "I'm bloody bored."
Posted: 4732 days ago

Um, since we both have the same first name, people will think that your making YOURSELF a bad character. Or, make me a good character, people will think it's you, and I'll know it's not. YAIADC.

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