Is it a gentle nudge which can keep a conversation chugging? Or is it a polite rebuff to kill a conversation?

If you are wondering what I am talking about, it is Hmm.


I have been thinking about this for quite some time. For more than two years, if I am not wrong. Two years is a really long time to decipher a subject.

Since the day I started observing specific trends relating to usage of Hmm in conversations, the intent behind the usage of the word has been hassling my mind. 

What provokes the usage of this word in conversations?

Is it utter boredom about the conversation in progress? Or is it a thoughtful silence? Is it about closing the door on the chat, signalling The End? Or is it a pregnant pause?

Is it used by the listener to showcase active interest about what you are speaking? Or is it used to convey a subtle disinterest in the conversation?

The dictionary explains Hmm as an interjection used typically to express thoughtful absorption, hesitation, doubt, or perplexity. 

As we can see, the word itself has several connotations. With a myriad of expressions that it can communicate, wouldn't it be best to leave this word out of the conversation? And communicate what you feel, clearly and precisely?

Nah, that wouldn't be a practical solution. We, human beings, are wired to receive what we think as Good, and reject what we think as Not Good (Bad has been avoided consciously). 

With the fast pace at which information is being bombarded at us, many a times by people around us, rejection has to be subtle. And this is where Hmm comes to the rescue.

Enough about Hmm. Let's end it here. Lest you end up saying, Hmm.

P.S. Next time someone says Hmm, just try to contemplate the reasons behind it. Don't let it delve too much in your mind. Just make it a minor silent introspection. 

Hmm Hmm Reviewed by Vyankatesh on Monday, January 06, 2014 Rating: 5

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