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I often use expression "The thing is" as filler a lot like this:

See, the thing is, they did not want to watch the movie that is why went there.

I might as well say it without it, since it does not really change the meaning, but sometimes I just say it instinctively to give my self some more to time to think.

My question is, is it normal for people to do this? And if the answer is yes, what are the other expression like this?

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Anyone who sometimes uses The thing is as a filler should not object when someone else uses like or ya know as a filler. –  GEdgar Jan 13 '13 at 20:41

4 Answers 4

It's common enough, and suggests that the following statement provides information that contradicts, emphasises or otherwise provides a strong insight on what has already been stated.

It's only really a filler if that meaning isn't required. (Some might consider it superfluous even when it is, and worth dropping, but that's another matter).

Which fillers people use tend to be very much influenced by region and sub-culture, so they are often "tells" about someone's background (those who use "like", those who use "innit", those who use "you know?" and so on). They are often adopted as shibboleths within groups to show people identify with the rest of the group. Teenagers are often criticise for using fillers that their elders dislike, but (1) teenagers have a particularly pressing need to signify that they identify with their peers and (2) those elders are probably underestimate how heavily they use fillers of their own, because such fillers become invisible to those who use them.

It's a good idea to avoid fillers generally, and even more so in writing than in speech, to focus on what is more important and to avoid alienating those who don't use the same fillers themselves. It is not something to worry too much about, though.

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The purpose of that expression is usually to emphasize your point, similarly to “the way I see it” or “in my opinion”.

It’s probably not good to use it too often because that is as distracting to your listeners as filling your speech with “you know”.

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Sorry if this sounds like the answer to a question about personal habits, but we all do this sort of thing. It’s perfectly normal, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

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I didn't downvote your answer, although I disagree with part of it. I assert that too-frequently saying “The thing is” is something to be ashamed of. –  jwpat7 Jan 13 '13 at 21:15
    
@jwpat7. I say it, and I'm not ashamed of it. Why should I be? –  Barrie England Jan 13 '13 at 21:39
    
But do you say it too frequently? If not, no problem; but if so, it's a bad habit, of which one might be ashamed. –  jwpat7 Jan 13 '13 at 21:44
    
@jwpat7. That could apply to any expression. I can't say I've kept a record of my frequency of use, but it's certainly useful as a means of drawing attention to what you're about to say - as are many similar expressions. –  Barrie England Jan 13 '13 at 21:52

As a stutterer, I developed the coping strategy of mentally rehearsing each sentence to identify potential blockages before beginning to speak. Without any conscious decision, I began to fill the dead air with essentially meaningless filler sounds, such as your use of The thing is.

I have worked hard to break that habit since a good friend commented "You do realise that your thought impediment is now far more annoying than your speech impediment ever was."

The too-frequent use of any empty phrase like, you know, that thing you do is likely to annoy at least some of your listeners and reduce the notice that they take of what you say.

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