Thursday, June 27, 2013

Long Time Passed

While corresponding with the narrator for my upcoming audiobook of A World Ago: A Navy Man's Letters Home, 1954-1956, I had the occasion to go back through the recently-released e-book version, and came across this “transition” letter. It was the first I'd written since being dropped from the Naval Aviation Cadet program, but before I'd been transferred from Pensacola to Norfolk to begin a totally new phase of my navy experience. I hope you might enjoy it, and even decide you might like to read (or, when it is released, listen to) the book.

Sunday, 8 August, 1955
Dear Folks
This is the first letter I’ve written in my long (10 days) career as a whitehat. This isn’t at all strange, since most whitehats are not given credit for the intelligence to write their own names, let alone a letter.
The Navy has, I figure, spent out something like $30,000 on me—and what do they have to show for their money? Well, I can sweep floors, and polish brass doorknobs, and paint walls, which you must admit are very necessary—they are, as the posters say, preparing us for a career—as busboys, janitors, and third-rate house painters. I don’t suppose it is necessary to add that I detest the Navy wholeheartedly
The final stages in the degeneration of a character are preceded by such things as writing letters in pencil. However, since I have misplaced my pen (again) and, since writing with a pen would be far too pretentious for one of my lowly station, I must be satisfied with pencil. Let’s pretend it is brown ink.
This is my last letter from Pensacola. Tonite, while walking “home” from the Gedunk, I looked at the lights shining from all the windows, and at their reflections on the white pillars and porches; and I remembered the first time I’d seen them, just eight days short of a year ago. I have been through a lot since then, but the Gulf and the night and the buildings are still the same.
And during the day I watch them—the cadets in stiffly clean khakis marching to and from classes with their book bags. And then I see the indoctrinees—bewildered looking kids in civilian clothes with their close-cropped hair, stumbling over their own feet, looking in awe at anyone with a solo bar. I can’t help but wonder where they’ll be, a year from now.
Tomorrow I shall be on my way to Norfolk, Virginia. Funny, but I still think of myself as a cadet—at least as something apart from the guys around me. Tomorrow will bring the awakening, when I leave for good.
In the slight irony department, we have an angry young lady named Connie. She is a hurricane. Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve hoped for a hurricane—to see or be in one—and it will strike sometime next week—when I am safely inland, where hurricanes never reach. Oh, well.
Last week we had a tropical storm named Brenda—she never became a hurricane, but was very interesting nevertheless. Mother, remember Santa Rosa Island, where you picked up your seashells, on the way to Fort Pickens? Well, much of that road was washed away as waves rolled over the island. I walked down to the seaplane ramps, and watched the huge waves smashing themselves against the sea wall, colliding with one another in great cymbal-crashes of spray.
Been to a movie every night now for two weeks—yes, I still love them—also there is nothing else to do with yourself.
This place is positively and literally swarming with amusing reddish-brown, many-legged little insects. I have yet to open my locker and fail to find at least half a dozen staring placidly at me, or strolling casually across my underclothes. Oh, well, I suppose they’re better than scorpions or rattlesnakes, but not much.
Enough rambling for now—the pencil and my mind are rapidly becoming duller. I’d best find some ink to sign the envelope—I will not sink so low as to address a letter in pencil.
Hope you had a nice vacation, dad. Regards to all from
Su hijo,

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which will shortly also be available as an audiobook.

Monday, June 24, 2013


When I was a kid, during WWII, I could never figure out how any country could declare itself neutral; no one can be neutral in a fight if someone is determined to beat the crap out of you unless you're willing to have the crap beat out of you. Even Gandhi wasn't neutral in his ideals—he just didn't believe in fighting back. I know now that Sweden and Switzerland remained neutral only because it was in the combatants' best interests to let them remain neutral.

On a personal level, few of us are neutral on very many issues; the closer they come to our personal interests, the less neutral we become. Yet I remain neutral to many of the things to which others are not. I apply the “how much does it affect me, personally,” rule. My tendency is to be neutral to 99.9 percent of my fellow humans, to like almost everyone with whom I have contact unless and until I am given good reason not to, and to actively dislike very few. I can in fact honestly say I have actively hated two people I have known personally (and, on thinking of them after 30+ years, still do).

I think it's fairly safe to say I go through life largely in a state of neutral when it comes to most of what goes on around me. Since no one but me pays my rent or has the ability to disrupt my day-to-day life, I see little point in letting what other people do or say have too much influence over me. This is not to say I am not interested in others and their lives, but I by and large give them credit for being able to live their lives without interference or guidance from me. (Not that I do not give out excellent advice when asked, of course.) I do not see much point in engaging in discussions of the flaws and foibles of others.

The ability to see both sides of any given issue—or to realize that nothing is all black or all white—clearly lends itself to neutrality. So much that goes on in the world is totally beyond my control I find it better, though not always easy, to ignore them. There are, of course, things and people—mostly politicians, bigots, and those utterly devoid of scruples and morals—which spark intensely negative emotions within me. I do not like those feelings and am not proud of them, but must acknowledge them. And having so said, I find it interesting to realize that I do not apply those emotions to anyone I know personally—probably because the minute I begin to sense a negative reaction to someone, I simply do not associate with them.

If emotions can be described as colors, neutrality is unquestionably a soft grey. And while it may not nearly as intense as the flame red of anger or the ice-blue of outright rejection, it provides a level of comfort that intensity does not. The danger in always choosing grey over the more intense colors is that I suspect that limbo is grey.

My mind seems to have only two gears—out-of-control speed and neutral. Either my thoughts are racing so fast it's nearly impossible to catch and hold on to any one of them, or they just sit there in the Lotus position, refusing to respond to any stimulus. This is particularly true when I really need to think of something—like the subject for my next blog.

I believe that time is a major factor in neutrality—experiencing something for the first time tends to produce the strongest emotion, and the more often one encounters or experiences the same thing, the more commonplace—the more grey—it becomes. It sometimes bothers me that I have become neutral to so many thing I once found exciting, though it is, I believe, a general human condition. The older one gets, the fewer things one encounters for the first time. How many TV shows can you think of that you started out loving, only to have that initial enthusiasm gradually wane over time. Familiarity may not breed contempt, but it often does breed neutrality.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which will shortly also be available as an audiobook.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A World Not Mine

The other day, after reading innumerable posts on FB about husbands and daughters and grandchildren and church socials and engagements and weddings and visits with/to/from married friends and relatives and their families struck me yet again that I have lived my entire life in the world of heterosexuals without ever understanding it or ever feeling I belonged—or was wanted—in it.

Oh, don't get me wrong: I understand people quite well, for all humans share the same emotions and motivations, and most are, at heart, very nice people. I have nothing at all against heterosexuals as individual human beings. But it's the societal divisions/clumps/clusters/rituals I simply cannot comprehend. I view it all much as I view organized sports which everyone but me seems to love. Not only have I never, ever, understood anything but the very rudiments of football or baseball or basketball or hockey or rugby or...; I have never had the slightest interest in learning. To go into absolute frenzies of excitement over the upcoming “BIG GAME!” which will be followed a week or so later by the next “BIG GAME” totally, completely, and utterly escapes me. To follow the lives of “celebrities” with an intensity and devotion seldom if ever shown in conducting one's own day to day life just make no sense at all to me. To be more concerned by the birth of some vacuous—but beautiful; always beautiful—movie star's child than one is by the obscene numbers of people killed by guns in the U.S. every year strikes me as incomprehensible and tells me something is seriously wrong with our species.

We are all given certain gifts at birth, among them intelligence, the ability to learn, and logic. Sadly, our capacity for these gifts is seldom fully realized. Though we are thinking creatures, we tend to follow a basic law of physics and, in all things requiring thinking, tend to take the path of least resistance.

Logic, one of the most precious of our gifts, is often the one most universally ignored. How and why people so readily and unquestionably accept what they are told—especially if the teller speaks with convincing-even-if-non-existent authority and the tale reflects negatively on someone else—is, to me, proof positive that I do not belong. I cannot comprehend the vastness and intensity of hatred and vitriol and unconscionable bigotry which surrounds me, and it frequently threatens to destroy my belief in the good and decent aspects of humanity.

I sometimes, in fact, feel that I am Alice and the world is a gigantic rabbit hole; politicians and pundits are Mad Hatters and Red Queens and the vast majority of everyone else are dormice.

Something in human nature seems to program us to expect everything to be simple. The world is many things: simple is not one of them. Yes and no, black and white, right and wrong, good and bad are diametric opposites, but the space between them is not a vacuum. There are infinite variations and shadings and intensities between each set of opposites. But it's easier to ignore those shadings, and so we do.

I want and expect the world to be what I want and expect it to be. That it is not is a source of constant frustration for me...and I'm sure for most other people. But it would be a far greater frustration for me than it already is were it not for the fact that I am a writer. I am infinitely grateful that this fact frees my mind, if not my body, from the world around me. Words are the wings which allow me to escape the earth and seek the clouds.

You may not be a writer, but for anyone with a little imagination, the world in which the body lives does not have to be the world in which the mind lives. The tragedy is that so few people, caught up as they are with the body's world of work and car payments and kids' tuitions, are aware that there is any other.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which will soon also be available as an audiobook.

Monday, June 17, 2013


I'll be leaving for Rome July 3, thanks to my dear, sadly-dead friend Norm's generosity, for a 15 day cruise from Rome to Istanbul. This will be my third visit to Rome, my first being 57 years ago courtesy of the United States Navy. But I'll also be revisiting, for the first time since my Navy days, Athens and Istanbul, of which I have fond memories. As those of you who have been following my blogs well know, I have a strange obsession with and relationship to the past. While I cannot fool myself into thinking the journey or I will be the same as it/I was, it promises to be a fascinating adventure.

This will also be my first time on an ocean (well, sea)-going vessel since I left the navy. The river cruise I took last year from Budapest to Amsterdam was beautiful, but I'm not sure river cruise boats, large as they are, are really considered to be ships.

The one less-than-idyllic aspect of the coming cruise, as it was with the river cruise, is that I will largely be unable to take advantage of the marvelous food and wines provided. With great regret, but little choice, I have accepted the fact that as a result of my ten-years-ago, now, dance with tongue cancer, I have absolutely no interest in solid food beyond a few bites. No bid for sympathy; just the way it is. For dinner each evening, I'll be lucky to finish an appetizer. And since wine, or any regular alcohol, burns the hell out of my mouth, though I can fairly well tolerate beer, I'll try to drink as much dark beer as I can.

The point of mentioning the food is that I will unquestionably, as I did on the river cruise, be losing 10 pounds or more during the trip. I have ordered two cases of Benecalorie liquid nutritional supplement—each with 24 1.5 oz cups of highly-concentrated nutrients providing 350 calories each—and will try to pack as many of them as I can into my suitcase so I'll be guaranteed at least 1/3 of my necessary caloric intake each day. I normally also drink two 8-oz, 350-calorie bottles of nutritional supplements per day, but I can't carry enough of them with me to cover the entire trip.

I'm looking forward to taking a ton of pictures and, while it should be no problem while ashore, I'm mildly concerned about taking pictures while at sea. I'm sure they sail mostly close to the shore to facilitate passengers taking pictures, but I have found that pictures taken at a distance lose a lot. And if I use the zoom lens feature, the slightest motion while clicking the shutter blurs the photo (moving ships are not ideal for stability).

My fondest memories of Athens—recorded in my A World Ago: A Navy Man's Letters Home, 1954-1956—are of being ashore with my shipboard buddy, Lloyd, upon whom I had a gigantic but totally unrequited crush. I think today it would be called a “bromance.” The pictures we had taken of the two of us in front of the Parthenon still make my chest ache whenever I look at them. And while the details were blurred by alcohol, I distinctly remember the night the two of us went ashore and got utterly, totally drunk and would never have made it back to the ship were it not for the kindness of a couple of Greek sailors we encountered at some point in the evening.

Istanbul provided another cherished memory, and one from which I have a tangible reminder as well. While I can't recall the exact details, I found myself at the Istanbul Hilton hotel with some shipmates, and ordered a small glass of sweet vermouth. I'm not sure why, but I considered it the time to be the height of elegance and sophistication—I was at the Istanbul Hilton, after all. The tiny glass had the hotel's logo etched onto it and, man of the world that I was, I stole it. I still have it. So I want, if possible, to return to the Istanbul Hilton, if it still exists at the same location, and risk the burning of my mouth to have a small glass of sweet vermouth. I will try to resist stealing the glass this time, but....

So yet again I find myself acutely aware of Thomas Wolfe's caution that “you can't go home again.” And yet again, despite knowing I can't, I can try.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is now also available as an audiobook.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Quoth the Raven,.....

Have you ever had the experience of driving on a slippery road when the car suddenly begins an uncontrollable swerve? That moment of...what? Fear? Apprehension?...awareness of having no control over what's happening and not knowing what comes next? It's exactly how I view the process of my aging.

I realize I have no right to complain—to do so is, in fact, an act of supreme ingratitude for the gift of having been allowed to live as long as I have when so many billions of others have not. And this is not addressed to anyone who lives with physical problems, many of which are far worse than my own. Yet I cannot help but cling, sometimes desperately, to the past and to grieve for all those things I've done that I will/can never do again: run, eat a full meal, lift my head high enough to look at a passing plane, or turn it far enough to look over my shoulder; to see and talk with and touch so very many people who formed the foundations of my life; to experience romantic love. Things which were simply an integral part of my life...and to the majority of people younger than, say, sixty or sixty-five.

If you're rolling your eyes and giving a Weltschmerz sigh about now, muttering “here we go again,” you have some justification in doing so: I do feel sorry for myself at times. But my reason for bringing the subject up so often is, truly, not the self-pity factor, or to focus on what I don't have and can't do, but on what you do have and can do without a single conscious thought. And my point is that you should give it a conscious thought, and often.

We of course cannot stop to contemplate or analyze our every thought or action—if we did, there would be no time to live our lives. But we can pause every now and again to be aware, and most importantly, to give thanks for, everything and everyone we cherish right now, for either they will not always be with us or we will not always be with them. Never pass up an opportunity to let the important people in your life know what you feel about them.

There are an infinite number of ways to show how we feel without gushing. The smallest gestures can sometimes be the most meaningful. Such simple thing as meaning it when you ask “How are you,” and really listening to the response can not only strengthen your bond to them, but bring them pleasure. Simple kindness can be priceless to the recipient, yet it costs the giver nothing.

Growing older, for a great many people, involves—willingly or unwillingly, wittingly or unwittingly—an inevitable withdrawal from the world around them. The older one grows, the more isolated one tends to feel and in fact be. Chances are you have no real idea how important a kind word or gesture—any reassurance that they still have meaning to the world—can mean to those whose social support systems are inexorably dwindling. There may well come a time when you are in need of exactly such a word or gesture.

It is part of being human that our primary interests and concerns are centered around ourselves. Yet the danger is that far too often—as it is, I freely if sadly admit, true in my own case—our concentration on ourselves effectively dims our awareness of others. We are so concerned about our individual problems and concerns we become largely blind and deaf to those—often far more serious than our own—of others.

Edgar Allen Poe's raven eventually comes to the door of everyone who lives long enough. The problem is that when it does, we almost without exception are caught by surprise. “Why didn't I appreciate what I had when I had it? Why didn't I do what I should have done, or wanted to do?” Exactly. We should all strive to live our lives so that when the raven says “Nevermore,” at least we can take whatever small comfort in replying, “Yes, but once....”

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is now also available as an audiobook.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Spider's Belch

If you have followed these blogs for any length of time, you are aware that I have what even I consider to be an unnatural obsession with internet spam, which I have been fighting with considerable success of late. I had never understood it's attraction or significance until now: internet spam is in fact the equivalent of an intricately woven spider's web, at the center of which a deadly predator awaits.

But just as spider webs are designed to draw in the weakest and most unresisting, internet spam draws in those who never, ever, stop to think before acting, who assume whatever they are told is the absolute truth, and/or who are sufficiently greedy to ignore the screaming sirens of logic. I've never known whether to pity those who are drawn in, or disgusted by them. Perhaps spiderwebs are nature's way of “thinning the herd”--a form “survival of the fittest.”

In an effort to keep myself from being drawn in, I have forced myself never, ever to even look at my spam folder...just automatically hit “delete.” But, like Lot's wife....

The creators of spam are, all evidence to the contrary, not totally stupid. But they don't have to be smart. They are predators. They have about the same I.Q. as a black widow spider, but they spin their webs with the same determination and for the same purpose.

Let us take one single, all-too-typical spam message and lay it out upon the examining table to dissect it, piece by piece. First, here is the message in its entirety:

Order Request

Thanks for your continous response to our email and your diligent work in getting our order supplied, we have three other suppliers and at  we have to select only one. Register your company profile on our supplier Portal and fill  the datasheet after logging in.
Click to download data sheet

Thanks for your cooperation
  Hussein Safwan
Purchase Manager

The first thing we observe is the “Second Coming”-size boldface “Order Request,” implying that what follows is of vital importance. That it not only is not important but makes absolutely no sense is irrelevant. (Does “order request” mean they asking you to place an order, or are they referring to an order that has, supposedly, already been placed? No matter.)

Now, this may be difficult, but carefully set aside every concept of logic you have ever had and ignore the fact that not one single thing in the entire message makes even an iota of sense.
Thanks for your continous [sic.] response to our email...” One might wonder, if one were the wondering kind, which the spammer counts on your not being, how one can “continuously” respond to a single email which was obviously never sent in the first place? They feel safe in assuming you, the recipient, are not smart enough to remember that you have never in fact heard from these people before. They said you did, so you must have.

“Company profile”??? What company? Do you have a company? They hope flattery will let you make one up. “Supplier Portal”?? “Log in”??

All leading you to the spider in the center of the web. “Click to download data sheet” in big, bold letters. Click and they have you. You are doomed.

The note is signed by “Hussein Safwan,” an exotic-sounding name that is sure to instill confidence. And we learn that Mr. Safwan is a “Purchase Manager.” Did it occur to you to wonder what he purchases, or for whom he works? Who cares? You...and you can be sure your money...are toast.

Now all you have to do is to sit back and listen for the spider's belch.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Thursday, June 06, 2013


I love the name “Ishmael.” I love the look of it and the sound of it and the feel of saying it. Our individual names help point us out among the millions of others around us. Many are, unfortunately, rather bland (“Joe,” “Jim,” “Sally,”) and those possessing them must work a little harder to distinguish themselves from all the Joes and Jims and Sallys around them.

Some of us have not only the names we were born with, but special names of affection by which our friends and loved ones refer to us. To my mother, especially when I was a child, I was “Punkin” or “Beaner.” My mother has been dead for over 40 years now, and yet even to think of those two names fills me with warmth and longing.

To my beloved Uncle Buck, I was “Guggenheimer.” To the rest of the world I was always either “Roge” or “Roger” (though to my non-related Uncle Bob I was “Rogie”) until I began writing books, from which point I have largely become “Dorien.”

Names have always fascinated me; their very sound create mental images: from the masculine crispness of the “K” sound, as in “Keith” and “Kurt” to the soothing softness of feminine “S” names—“Sarah” and “Susan” and “Shirley.” I have noticed in the writing of my books that I seem to have become strongly attracted to male names beginning with the letter J—“Jonathan,” “Joshua,” “Jared,” “Jake;” I'm going to find a place to introduce a character named “Jeremiah,” one of my current favorites.

It's possible to tell quite a bit about a person just from his/her name. Names tend to be faddish, and it's possible to fairly accurately tell a person's general age—or social status, or ethnicity—by the name they were given. “Millicent,” “Priscilla,” “Patience,” “Prudence,” “Chastity” have largely fallen out of popularity, perhaps because of the Victorian times the names evoke. Of course, like trends and fads in fashion, name popularity is somewhat cyclical. “Amanda,” “Emily,” and “Amelia” among them seem to come around regularly in cycles. Some names very popular today were largely unheard of until the latter half of the 20th century—“Amber” and “Ashley,” for example.

Ethnicity and national origin are fairly easy to determine in some names; it's hard not to miss the ethnicity of “Letitia” or “Jamal” or “Luanna” or “Hymie” or “Mitzpah,” or the nationality of “Serge” or “Vladamir” or “Svetlana.” Unfortunately, in their attempt to set their child apart by giving them an exotic-sounding name, they condemn the poor kid to a lifetime of standing out when they may have wished to blend in. Naming a child “Le-ah” (pronounced “LeDashAh”) or “MoonBaby” all but hangs an invisible neon arrow over their head.

But ours is a culture in which, it seems, people go out of their way to be trendy or exotic, and like the tides, they come and go with surprising regularity. I suppose it's somewhat akin to the socioeconomic desire to “keep up with the Joneses.” For some reason I do not understand, boys' names, while also trendy, do not seem to be quite so trendy as girls. For 2013, the top names for boys are “Liam,” “Noah” (the biblical influence), “Ethan,” and “Mason;” for girls, “Emma,” “Olivia,” “Sophia,” and “Isabella.”

In 1900, the four most popular boys' names were the solid, no-frills or fru-frus “John,” “William,” “James,” and “George”; girls were “Mary,” “Helen,” “Anna,” and “Margaret.” All are still common today, but hearken to a less name-status past.

I personally tend to prefer full names over contractions: “John” over “Jack,” “Richard” over “Dick” (though strangely I could not imagine the protagonist of my Dick Hardesty mystery series being called “Richard.”)

The discussion of names could go on indefinitely, but time and space here are limited. Oh, and we haven't even touched upon the meaning of all these names. And therein lies the topic for another blog...or six.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Monday, June 03, 2013

Ya' Know What I'm Sayin'?

Nature, it is said, abhors a vacuum. So, apparently, does the human mind when it comes to talking.

It seems to be a quirk of human nature that there is too often a sort of race between the mind and the mouth, and people tend to talk faster than their mind can supply their mouth with things to say. The result is a break in the momentum the mouth has built up, leaving potentially awkward gaps which we tend to spackle over with a wide variety of oral fillers. “Umm,” “Uh,” and “Er” are classic old reliables so ubiquitous not one person in 50 is even aware of them.

What is there about human beings that makes them think that once they begin talking, there can be not one instant of silence; perhaps they fear someone else may jump in?

“You know” is one of the most common of gap fillers, and it also implies the speaker's attempt to make sure the listener is following what is being said. Some, I imagine, consciously or unconsciously use “you know” as an attempt to create a bond with the listener by assuming a connection which may not indeed exist. (“I was telling Sally, you know,...” Well, gee, I'm sorry, I didn't know, but it was nice of you to think highly enough of me to assume that I did.)

“Ya' know what I'm sayin',” is an extremely unfortunate and relatively recent bastardization of the far more simple “you know.” It is fascinating to note that it is used almost exclusively by African-Americans with little formal education. I have been exposed to conversations, usually on TV, in which not ten words go by without the insertion of a “Ya' know what I'm sayin'?” Single sentences can contain up to four of them. I personally find its effect similar to chewing tinfoil, and I am tempted to grab the speaker by the neck, lift him or her off the floor, and shout, “Yes! Yes, I do know what you're saying! Now just get the f**k on with it!

Of course the fact is that few people, in fact, speak in complete sentences (listen carefully). Sentences overlap, wander from their original topic.We are so accustomed to gap fillers that we are almost unaware of them...which is probably just as well, for if we were aware of them, I'm sure they'd drive us to distraction and beyond. Have you ever had the opportunity to read the full, complete transcript of any extemporaneous speech, or listened to the recording of any individual talking for any length of time, and then played it back specifically listening for gap fillers? Probably not. Were we to be consciously aware of gap-fillers, it would be difficult if not impossible to make an iota of sense out of what is being said. And yet we seem terrified of simple brief pauses, devoid of sound. Are we subconsciously afraid that if we allow even the shortest space between words, our listener(s) will wander off somewhere? Or that if we pause we or the listener might forget what we were saying?

Some people eschew most of the usual gap fillers in favor of individualized, creative gap fillers of their own, but the result can be equally annoying. I have a dear relative who ends nearly every sentence with “and that.” (“So we decided not to go, and that.”) She is utterly unaware of this habit as, I would fervently hope, is her husband, who has been exposed to it for nearly sixty years.

There are what might be called “fad” fillers. “Like” is a good example, and it is often combined with other fillers. (“And he was, like, you know....”). “Goes” was another blessedly short-lived popular filler. (“So he goes,.... And then I go,....And then he goes.....”)

It's possible, and interesting, to tune one's ear to pick up gap fillers. Try it if you have a little time to spend testing out what's been said above. Ya' know what I'm sayin'?

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (