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Produce Powerful Presentations (Collection) by Jerry Weissman

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57. Unwords: Even Barack Obama Says Them

Every crossword puzzle in the Sunday edition of the New York Times has a stated theme. One, called “Roughly Speaking,” played out the answers in words that contained either “er” or “um.” When spoken, those two sounds are known as fillers or “unwords” because they have no meaning. Unwords are the bane of any speaker’s existence because they make the presenter appear uncertain.

Barack Obama, whose superior speaking skills are acknowledged by detractors and supporters alike, often lapses into unwords when he departs from his trusty teleprompter and speaks extemporaneously, such as in press conferences. Those lapses drew much spoofing during the early months of his presidency. Many of the spoofs took the form ...

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