Home NEWS Local Scene “We Feel Unsafe-Uhh… And You’re Making Me Feel Uncomfortable-Uhh.”

“We Feel Unsafe-Uhh… And You’re Making Me Feel Uncomfortable-Uhh.”


Street sociologists that we are we spend a lot of time interacting with others of our species and cocking an ear whenever some new dialect or linguistic affectation springs up.

At present we are trying to trace the origins of “Uhhh-Speech,” that strange vocal add-on people seemingly of all ages and stripes are appending to their vocabularies.

Exempli gratia: Gina is being arrested and thinks she has been unfairly singled out by police. Gina says: “Why’re you doing this to me-uuuhh? I didn’t do nothing-uhhh? Those handcuffs really hurt-uhhh!”

At first we thought the usage was limited to a few members of some cut off civilization. You know, like some Polynesians introduced their language to other nearby islands after paddling there and mingling with the locals. After a while their words gained acceptance and were used in everyday speech.

But we couldn’t figure out where the Original Uhh-speakers came from. Tik Tok? WhatsApp? Ariana Grande videos?

It’s a puzzlement. If you know, clue us in.

We’re also looking into practitioners of the “I’m uncomfortable” and “I don’t feel safe” Movement, as both seem to have become sweeping explanatory rationale for a wide range of circumstances – everything from a casual glance in a bar to the fact that someone is walking on the same side of the street as you.

And, like their cousin Uhh-Speakers, ‘The Uncomfortables’ fall back on their chosen catch-all phrases when seeking redress of whatever it is that makes them uneasy. Even more remarkable is that recitation of the phrase is often enough to trigger action by others – bouncers, Dad’s, police – despite the complaint’s nebulous nature.

Still trying to figure this one out, too. Why, back in the day (we know, we know – “Times have changed, grandpa“) if we felt uncomfortable or unsafe we took steps to mitigate whatever it was that posed the threat or semi-threat. Now, apparently, you approach the nearest person of authority, point to your “offender” and recite the magic words and bing, bang, bong – your tormentor is whisked away to the gulag.

When did this become an accepted approach to perceived conflict resolution? We’re not sure. We’re on it.

And, while we’re on the topic of changing social mores we would like to extend a cautionary word to older gents with a taste for fresh air and public parks. Whatever you do, gentlemen, never ever cast an appreciative eye over a child or group of children playing in said park. As innocent a trip down memory lane as that practice may have been in months past it is now the surest way to being labeled a “creeper” and branded as the lonely, pale, child-less monster that you are.

And, heaven forbid, if one of the little rascals turns to look at you and raises their cute little hand in greeting like Donald Sutherland at the end of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ (1978 version) – do not, repeat, do not return the greeting. Get up and run for the nearest exit, picking up the pace if the coddled Child of the Corn says something like: “Mommy, that man winked at me.”

Apparently, much of our innocence seems to have gotten lost somewhere along the way. These days, it doesn’t take much to make someone feel unsafe or uncomfortable and, well, that is simply unacceptable-uhh.


  1. Sounds like the Singlish (Chinese influenced Singaporean English) “ah” added to the end of a clause or sentence to express doubt or questioning.
    I hope that doesn’t make anyone feel “uncomfortable” or “unsafe” should they hear it.

  2. 1 in 5 women have experienced rape or attempted rape. If you walk into say a restaurant with 30 women present, statistically 6 of them will have experienced rape or attempted rape. 1 in 3 (or 10 women in this theoretical restaurant) have experienced unwanted sexual contact like groping. PTSD is extremely common in victims of sexual assault.

    It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to understand where this innocence got lost or why so many express feeling uncomfortable or unsafe.

    I never say it, but I feel terrified when men pass too close, breathe too loud, or physically remind me of my attackers. This is PTSD and it is a normal reaction to the circumstances. Instead of writing articles about your irritation with people saying uuuuhhh too much or expressing that they feel uncomfortable or unsafe, you could taking on rape culture instead?

  3. Let me make sure I understand this comment correctly.

    In the US 50.4 % of the population is female, and 20% may have PTSD related to something that unfortunately happened them. So, even though I am no rapist or groper, 10% of the population should have license to report me to the police for no other reason than being a male, or reminding them of someone in their past, or because…you know, because I breathe or have some other physical characteristic I have no control over?
    And, that ANY observations about anything at all, needs to be shelved in favor of taking on rape culture?

    Maybe-uhhh you could get some help for your PTSD and recognize that “feeling unsafe” is not enough of a reason to get someone jammed up or confronted by the police or some “hero” you may have enlisted, nor is it license to tell other people what they can or can not say/write.

    • You wrote in your article:

      “Apparently, much of our innocence seems to have gotten lost somewhere along the way. These days, it doesn’t take much to make someone feel unsafe or uncomfortable and, well, that is simply unacceptable-uhh.”

      You are totally right that it is unaccceptable that so many seem to feel unsafe or uncomfortable. I was pointing out one of many causes for that lost innocence and why it doesn’t take much to make someone feel unsafe or uncomfortable. There are logical reasons for this. Staggering rates of rape being one of them. Increases in hate crimes another. Many others too.

      I did not ever say it was OK to report you to the police for simply existing as a male in public space. Just trying to entice your readers toward empathy for the people you and they encounter in public, because there are in fact logical reasons for their fear and suspicions. Even if it isn’t fair to you or other males. I’m sorry that you are being targeted in this way when you go out.

      I’m actually quite curious if this is a common experience of men being reported for minding their own business or if it’s more a factor of you being a reporter and observing people…perhaps those observations set off alarm bells for people who don’t know you are a writer.

      Thank you for your concern for me healing from what happened. I am seeking help. It takes a long time to heal from violence of that nature and a ton of money too.

      Best to you and yours

      • Hey, Katie – thanks for your post and insight but we must clarify the line between READER and REPORTER – the former being a person RESPONDING to the article written by a REPORTER.

        With that clear, yes, we have heard from local men who have been singled out and approached by others because someone pointed them out and reported feeling unsafe. It seems to the men involved to be an unfairly weighted persecution with no supporting evidence to back it and no one standing behind the accusation itself.

        • Thank you for clarifying. With no specific byline I did get confused and believed the commenter was also the article author, given the content of the response.

  4. When my kids were ‘littles’, my daughter brought home from Kindergarten the ‘….uhhhhh’, and only employed it when she was super mad at her older brother. For context, Brother would without permission, dig in to her bowl of popcorn after devouring his, prompting a response like “Hey-uuuuuuh – get away from me-uhhhh”, with the ‘uuuuuhh’ increasing in volume and lowering in pitch. My wife and I were perplexed by this at the time, and we joked it was better than screeching or screaming or fisticuffs. Thankfully, it was outgrown shortly after Covid yanked everybody out of school and we could assert some influence on her developing language skills. I’ve heard other kids (in different timezones) use it, which helped me sleep at night, knowing my daughter wasn’t the origin of this annoying and strange glitch. My take? It wasn’t much different than “ummmm”; instead buying a beat of time to figure out what to *complain about* next. I’ve only heard it to emphasize anger / frustration / incredulity. I’m 50 now, and feel my generation are maybe the last to communicate in a way that is for the most part, correct, within our taught dialects. Of course this is a generalization, as there are outliers across all ages, and those younger than the 40 and up crowd have the dialect of the internet/tv working against them. Now, get off my lawn!

    • Hey, Greg – Howdy from Out Here On the Left Coast! Great to hear from you, as ever.

      Yours is the first example of Uhhh-speak that makes sense to us, and you explain perfectly its use and intonations – which we have also seen deployed by outraged pole dancers and affronted soccer moms who feel their rights, property, personal space have been violated in some way. Which brings us to another question: is this a gender-based speech pattern? We’re not sure, but we’ve only heard it deployed by girls/women now that we think about it.

      So the Girl Child brought it back from school, which is interesting and explains the manner of dissemination if not the actual root origin. We’ll keep working on that! We’re on the hunt for the origin of Uhh-Speak!

      Our best to all you guys! Thanks for writing!

  5. Katie I hope you get the support you need to move forward. My problem is the statistic you quoted waters down rape. If I counted every time a man touched me or said something unwanted or intimidated me I’d be a mess. It’s important to not get mired in victim hood or blaming. Rape should always be taken seriously. It has been used since the beginning of time to procure power over someone. It has historically been men because they have those things we don’t hanging off them. If we did- well who knows.
    I wish you all the best.

    On a lighter note- I was going to report the origin of “Bing, bang, bong” as lyrics in a RuPaul song “Uk Hun”- a very catchy tune. But I used a Google search and found Sophia Loren also used those lyrics in a song (not as good) many years before.

    • Holy Cow! A nearly perfect post with careful expression of thought, a musical reference, and Sophia Loren (who we had the distinct pleasure of meeting once… she was lovely).

      Thanks for posting, Kat!

      • The main statistic I quoted: 1 in 5 women…refers to forced or attempted penetration. Rape or attempted rape. I don’t think it waters down anything. Simply reflects the best available data on this particular crime. Many women out in public space have been the victim of rape or attempted rape. Just explaining one of the sources of women in public feeling unsafe or uncomfortable since the author of the article seemed flummoxed by this phenomenon of women feeling unsafe.

  6. I have to say I’ve never heard of “uuuh-speak” – until I read this. Now I’ve noticed it several times, usually among young females aggrieved in some way. It is quite pronounced and unusual. NO IDEA who started it!

  7. Think I heard it during a Super Bowl commercial. Some young rapper used a form of it and it sounded strange at the time.

  8. Character on Shitt’s Creek talks like that and it’s deliberately annoying. No wonder every 14 year old girl in the country talks like that now.

  9. Yes. Young women are using the ah or wah suffix regularly, particularly when they are put out and not getting their way. We heard this in Walnut Creek over the weekend with a young woman telling her date she wanted to leave by saying let’s go-wa. It was annoying but it worked.

Leave a Reply