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Some people quite frequently use "Hmmm" in their emails and messages.

What does this mean? Does it mean they are annoyed?

  • Hmm. I use it more in chat to mean "I completely disagree with what you've just said". – user24964 Nov 18 '13 at 16:49
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    It means exactly the same thing as when someone actually says it when you're speaking face to face. In other words it can mean a lot if different things depending on context and intonation (which admittedly is lost in email and chat) – Jim Nov 18 '13 at 16:52
  • @J.R.- I say it on several occasions. 1. When I want to say "I'm not sure I agree with you, but I don't think it's worth arguing about." 2. when I'm not paying strict attention to the person who's speaking and I realize they've just addressed a question to me and I want to indicate that I need them to repeat it. 3. when I'm in the middle of doing something and I just realize that I've run into a problem to which I don't immediately know the solution. – Jim Nov 18 '13 at 16:59
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    Hmmmm... no additional context? It could be used to express annoyance, but it could be used to express other sentiments as well, such as "I hadn't thought of it that way before" or "let me think about this some more for a moment" or "I'm not so sure I agree with that." More here. – J.R. Nov 18 '13 at 17:02
  • Ah yes, the "I hadn't thought of that before" usage. Good – Jim Nov 18 '13 at 17:03
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It expresses doubt without being outright rude about it.

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It is somewhat a close relative of "ok" or "I am following". More like when someone is telling/informing you about something you'd says "hmmmm" to indicated that you're following what is being told.

"Ummm" on the other hand means that you are thinking trying to recall or a find an answer to something, usually a question.

It's usually contextual plus the meaning varies from one group or locality to another depending on tactic agreement they have come to make about what it refers to.

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  • The hmmm-mmm in "ok, I'm with you so far" type is usually a two-syllable thing. – Jim Nov 18 '13 at 17:02
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    @Jim like I said it's group based, personally I wouldn't use hmmmm-mmm because it's kind of wasteful (effort and time). – Bleeding Fingers Nov 18 '13 at 17:09
  • Hmmm. You and I must be from completely different groups then. It would be really interesting to actually audibly compare our "hmmmm (mmmm)s" for this case. Because as written I can't imagine ever being able to interpret a single-syllable hmmm as a "ok, I'm with ya" sound. – Jim Nov 18 '13 at 18:35
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    Since the OP specifically is asking about 'hmmmm' used in e-mails and messages, your first example would probably not be used that way since there is no pause in a text message where a 'hmmm' would be useful. 'hmmmm' and 'ummm' seem to have taken on an idiomatic usage where they are used in texts and e-mails to almost exclusively represent either skepticism or disagreement (IMO). 'err' can also be used this way. – Kristina Lopez Nov 18 '13 at 18:39

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