I live in Australia, and I went back to Jordan for a holiday. I went to a barber's shop and as usual in there was a conversation between me and the barber.

All of a sudden he told me you don't live here, you must be from a foreign country. I was shocked because I did not say anything about that.

I told him yes, but how did you know?

He said when you were thinking you filled the pause with "mmmmmmmm" while in Jordan we fill it with "aaaaaaaaa"

Is it true that "mmmmmmm" is the English way of filling a pause? Is there another letter to fill the pause with beside "mmmm" and "aaaaa"?

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    In a lot of English-speaking cultures, and other cultures, it is generally considered rude to have your mouth open if it doesn't need to be. I would speculate that this could be at the root of a tendency to mmm not aaa. – Spagirl Jun 14 '17 at 11:11
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    For search purposes, these are called "vocalized pauses" and/or "speech disfluencies". – Cody Gray Jun 14 '17 at 15:40
  • “hmmmm” is indeed iconic for “I'm thinking” – JDługosz Jun 14 '17 at 18:43
  • @CodyGray I've seen them called "hesitation noises" in most academic discussion. – arp Jun 14 '17 at 19:45
  • I do think mmm and um are the most common in the U.S. at least. – aparente001 Jun 14 '17 at 22:54

There are quite a few "filler words" that can be used to indicate a pause for thought. Most of them are not real words, but are sounds like "umm", "mmm", "er", "uh" or "ah". This has lead to the phrase "umming and ahing" to describe someone having difficulty making a decision.

Sometimes people also use the word "like" whilst thinking, but this can annoy some people.


In the States, we usually do "Ummm".

Sometimes, to emphasis a "no", we say with some sass "aaah..no".


Common English hesitation noises are um, er, ah.

Ref: https://everything2.com/title/hesitation+noise

See also Does the American English hesitation sound “uh” imply ignorance, like “d’uh”?

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