Thursday, January 19, 2006

Transfer-Wk 11,Thurs.-Word Switching

What is “Word Switching”?

Unfortunately there is no entry for “word switching” on wikipedia.org to plagiarize in its entirety. But I did find the following in the “Avoidance” section, in the entry for “Stutter”.

“When stuttering, stutterers will often use nonsense syllables or less-appropriate (but easier to say) words to ease into the flow of speech. … “

“As stutterers often resort to word substitution in order to avoid stuttering, some develop an entire vocabulary of easy-to-pronounce words in order to maintain fluent speech—sometimes so well that no one, not even their spouses or friends, know that they have a stutter. Stutterers who successfully use this method are called "covert stutterers" or "closet stutterers". While they do not actually stutter in speech they nevertheless suffer greatly from their speech disorder. The extra effort it takes to scan ahead for feared words or sounds is stressful, and the replacement word is usually not as adequate a choice as the stutterer originally intended. Famously, some stutterers drastically limit their options when dealing with employees at given establishments; only eating cheeseburgers at fast-food restaurants, ordering toppings they do not like on pizzas, or getting a style of haircut they do not want as a by-product of their inability to pronounce certain words. Some stutterers have even changed their own given name because it contains a difficult-to-pronounce sound and frequently leads to embarrassing situations.”

Source : Wikipedia.org

When I started my therapy, I was given a questionnaire about my current stutter. One of the questions asked if I word switched; I replied that I did not word switch. I also maintained this position in conversations about stuttering.

Basically, my position was that I used to word switch, but hadn’t for many years. And why bother since I stutter on everything anyway.

But near the end of my therapy, during my heightened awareness of the events between my lungs and lips; I noticed that I was constantly attempting to word switch! Constantly!

Actually, my word switching was so bad that saying the correct word felt wrong at a gut level.

Not only that; but I later realized that I was word switching in mid-word and even mid-syllable!

Check this out … it’s a recording of one of my phone transfers where I reverted back to my old pattern. Fortunately it only took me 3-4 seconds to recover, versus the pre-therapy probable inability to recover.

Click here to listen

What the heck was that????

What happened at “Thank You”????

That’s not stuttering!

But that is what my speech pattern has become in the past 5-10 years. A whole lot of that mess! That reduces job searches to a series of resume emails, initial phone calls, and no interviews! It’s not a st-st-stutter.

That’s what my entire speech used to be! From picking up the phone and saying ‘Yes?’ (I haven’t been able to say ‘Hello’ for 25 years) till the caller hangs up.

So what the heck was that?

That, my friend, was a very unsuccessful, mid-syllable, word switch.

Let’s break it down:
I started off saying “Thank You”
It was going nowhere, so I switched to “Ok, Thank You”
Since that also failed, I tried “Ah, Ok, Thank You”
That failed, so I reverted back to “Ok, Thank You” and began switching between “Ah…” and “Ok…”

So the final result was something like “Ohhaaaaaooooooaaaaaaooooooaaaaaaaooooaaaaaoooook thank you”

And that was mild compared to what I used to do.

But, it was an incredible relief when I figured it out … it was an epiphany into my problem! I still have a regular stutter; it’s not an early symptom of some upcoming mental illness. And it’s not a newly developed stuttering pattern, that somebody will coin the “MacIntyre Effect”!

Bottom line; if I control my fluency, that thing is history.

Word switching may also explain a problem I started having about 6 years ago, where I would often switch a very important word for another, which usually made no sense in the context. Could it be that I was focusing so much on the difficulty I was having speaking, and not enough on the content, that an unconscious word switch was making my sentence meaningless?

But lets get down to brass tacks; what happened to cause the above mid-syllable word switch? Why did I feel the need to word switch at all? Lets talk targets … what did I do which was inconsistent with my therapy?

Well first off, I was not stretching syllables to a rate where I felt control, that’s obvious. The fact that I couldn’t say “Thank” leads me to believe I may have missed the gentle onset target on the ‘a’ after the silent ‘th’. And there was a possible missed slow change target moving from the ‘th’ to ‘a’.


Not meant as advice, please find a qualified therapist if you are interested in similar therapy.

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