Y'know, some people worry about the economy and unemployment. And others, y'know, worry about international relations. Florenz Hinz stays awake at night worrying about the proliferation of "y'know."
Hinz, a 67-year-old public relations consultant who lies in Alexandria, has been studying the "y'know" syndrome, or "inarticulitis" as he calls it for the past 10 years. He's discovered what English teachers and students of elocution have noticed for some time - "y'know" has become endemic.
"I noticed it becoming more common since the mid-1960s," says Hinz, who once recorded a 15-minute speech by a Harvard graduate student aired on nationwide television in which "the only thing that came through was that every 13th and 14th words were y'know."
Hinz sees sociological implications in the spread of "y'know". He thinks that people no longer use "cogent, articulate, terse" sentences because in order to do so "you have to stop to think." The noxious space filler has increased, according to Hinz, because of the demise of reading and the increase in television watching.
"People don't speak well because they haven't thought out what they really want to say," he maintains, "so they substitute "Y'know' for impoverished ideas and vocabulary.
"When someone says 'y'know' to me, I always say 'No. I don't know'. It makes them think."
Hinz says he's especially unhappy with people in the performing arts and sports.
"Football, baseball, basketball and tennis players, golfers and pugilists should never, but never, open their mouths for broadcast," he says. "In the first place they have little to say, and they only obfuscate when they say it. As a class their inarticulitisis horrendous. Many habitually couple their 'y'knows' with "I mean': 'I mean, y'know," I mean.'"
Hinz, however, is not going to have those suffering from inarticulitis to fend for themselves. He's developed a method to extricate the offending phrase from people's conservation. It's a corrective course, he says, "something akin to remdial reading, requiring an attitude and determination commonly associated with Alcoholics Anonymous and Weight Watchers."
He says he's tried it out on about "200 people, among them college students, friends and my own family. The method is nearly universally successful."
Hinz, who developed what he calls the "No-U-No method, started his system with his youngest daughter, who he says had "gross inarticulitis". Whenever she used y'know. Hinz says, she had to put a penny in a pot.Fairly quickly there was enough for a family outing, he says. As y'know began to disappear from her conversation, the fine was increased to a quarter. Now he says, the phrase has been almost eradicated from her speech.
Hinz says an occasional or rarely used 'y"know" doesn't concern him; he worries only when it clouds a person's conversation.
For these, the recommends a tape recorded system in which he analyzes a person's speech patterns.
Hinz, who says he hasn't marketed U-No-U professionally yet, calculates that each one-hour session would cost about $50. He hopes to find customers among "prominent people (who) are often aware of their speech deficiencies." He solicits potential customers, particularly entertainment personalitities and sports figures, by sending them tapes and transcripts of their broadcast interviews, pointing out symptoms of their inarticulitis and offering to help.
He says he is moving to Colorado in the fall and hopes to set up various U-No-U centers around the country "like rapid reading courses".
While Hinz feels he has especially good possibilities for clients from television and the performing arts, he doesn't expect much business from politicians.
"Politicians", he says, may not have much to say, but generally they say it well." Hinz feels, however, that with the ever-rising symptoms of inarticulitis he should have a thriving business within a year.
Y"know. I mean, y'know, he just might have something there.