Make Room For The Stuttering

Sometimes I Just Stutter

Posted on: June 1, 2009

I get my nails done every 2 weeks. It is my one consistent treat to myself. The salon is always very busy, with lots of chatter.  Mostly in English (the clients!), sometimes in Vietnamese (the staff!). I always wonder if the staff are talking about us when they launch into their private conversations. Sure they are! 

We are clumsy American women who sometimes insist on a “do-over.”  I am guilty of that myself, plenty of times. Like when I’ve gone out to the car and put the seat belt on and smudged a nail, and came back in the shop, sheepishly asking for a “do over.”  They always oblige. Sometimes, I have to wait, but they always fix it. And its not they’re fault! It’s mine!

The nail salon is not a place where I have done any stuttering advertising. Never thought there was a need to. There is not really that much real conversation going on between staff and clients. I have had the same person do my nails for 7 years. Van knows what I like, suggests nice colors and does a great pedicure too. She is not shy about yelling at me if my fingers get too tense, and pushes and pulls at my hands as she needs to.

On this day, Van was very tired, as she had just returned from a 10 day trip to Vietnam the previous night and decided to come to work anyway, even though she was exhausted. That worked for me, as I hate having anyone else do my nails.

In case you don’t know it about me, I am a perfectionist. I like to have my nails (and everything else, for that matter) perfect. I am paying for my nails, so I deserve it.

Anyway, this post is not just about getting my nails done, as fascinating as it is.  So, we were talking about her trip as I was getting a “fresh set” (if you know nails, you know what that means – if you don’t, its not  important). Anyway, I noticed a speck of dust or lint on one of my nails, and I said something like,”this one needs to be looked at”, but it actually came out,”this, this , this one needs to be looked at.”  She said, “I heard you the first time -why do you have to repeat yourself ?” She seemed annoyed. Maybe she was just jet-lagged.

I thought to myself, “oh boy – now she thinks I ‘m being sarcastic or rude.” (It does not take much for my negative self-talk to kick in, does it?) She seemed like she was waiting for an answer. Without thinking, I said,  “Sorry,  Van, sometimes I stutter.”

She looked at me, perplexed. So then I said,  “Sometimes, I just repeat a word a couple of times. That’s what stuttering is.  I wasn’t trying to be smart with you.”

This all happened in about 30 seconds. It still seemed like Van didn’t get it, but we moved on. As we should, because it wasn’t a big deal. I was actually proud of myself for saying it like I did. I wish I hadn’t said “sorry” like there was anything to apologize for, because there wasn’t.  But hey, it’s one step at a time, right? As a stuttering friend has said, its all about baby steps.

I am not afraid to admit that I am still working on me. There is nothing to apologize for. Sometimes, I just stutter. Yep, I just stutter.

Has something like this ever happened to you?

Copyright © 2009

15 Responses to "Sometimes I Just Stutter"

Dear Pam,

I saw your comments on Philangelus’ blog and went to check on your blog. I hope you will like to know you have a new follower 🙂

I do not stutter, though I did have a colleague in high school who did stutter (nobody made fun of him, that I know of, at least!). When I was a teacher, I had several students with unusual speach situations (one with echolalia, another who had lots of difficulties articulating most consonants), but as it was the university I guess students were more mature about that.

Anyway, I have one question that I never had the chance to ask to a person who stutters, so here it goes: My mother has a very good ear and involuntarily mimics other people’s way of talking. After one or two minutes of talking with someone, she drifts into the other person’s accent, way of speaking or even, you guessed it, stuttering. She feels very self-conscious when this happens, but she cannot avoid it. My question is: have you ever been on the receiving end of such a situation? Is the person who stutters able to see when someone is making fun of them vs. when someone just can’t help but immitate what she hears (like my mother)? My mother ends up feeling bad that maybe she is hurting someone’s feelings, and tries to be very careful in order that this does not happen, but as soon as she relaxes a bit she ends up immitating the other person’s speak pattern again…

Thanks in advance!

I stutter, and I have seen this phenomenon a lot. I have had several houseguests and cousins tell me that after spending a few days with me, they notice themselves stuttering. Like Pam reports, they are sometimes shy to tell me for fear of offending me. This has never offended me though; mostly I find it funny or flattering depending on context.

Recently a mutual friend mentioned that he thought my boyfriend stuttered more now than he did 3 years ago before he met me! I have a hard time believing that the condition is really that contagious. Maybe being near me makes other people more comfortable with and aware of their speech patterns? Maybe they are just jealous, haha. 😉

This has only happened to me once and it was over the phone.

I was calling a customer service line for help and as I stuttered I think I made the CSR nervous as well and he started to stutter a little.

I am most happy to have a new follower. Thank you for the good points to ponder. How nice to have a teacher’s perspective. I wish I had had a teacher’s perspective and understanding back when . . . . .

I have had at least two colleagues, after getting to know me, make comments that they they start to stutter after being around me. Both of them told me that they hope I didn’t mind them sharing that with me. One thought it was funny that she was doing that, the other thought I would think she was making fun of me and get offended. I was glad to hear it on both occassions, and glad they felt comfortable enough with me to tell me.

Two weeks ago, I gave a speech on stuttering and effective communication. A fellow Toastmaster, who heard the speech, but doesn’t know me all that well, called me the next day and we chatted about a few other things. He then stumbled over a word, laughed and said I was rubbing off on him!

I am ok with these things. It means I am (I think) sending the signal that I am ok with my stuttering, so it is ok with others to be as well.

I can tell though when someone is mimicking me – like a clerk in a store. That then feesl completely different – the person is laughing at me instead of with me.

Again, thanks for the feedback. I will enjoy having you help me process things even further!

Hey Pam,

I see this exchange differently than you. Example, I’ll use this very technique, but for exactly the different purpose. Let me use it in a context–because it’s all about perception.

(Are the inner-thoughts & motivations for what is said…)

…Employee: “What was that? What did you say? Spit it out.” …Me: “I’m sorry (that you’re an ignorant fool). I stutter sometimes, so we’re going to try this again (until you get it).”


…Employee: “What was that? What did you say? Spit it out.” …Me: “I’m sorry (that I stuttered and wrecked the communicative exchange). I stutter sometimes, so we’re going to try this again (until I get it).”

See what I mean?


Hmmm . . . . . not really sure what you mean here. I should have repeated what I was trying to say, instead of offering the explanation that I stutter?

I definitley see the difference in your two scenarios, but I thought it was good what I said! In the past, I would have just allowed that to pass and feel bad!

No no no! Sorry–I miss-typed. What I was trying to suggest is that I tend to “apologize” and in so doing, but the onus of failure on the insensitive listener. In essence, they are the “little”, “weak” or “jerks” if they can’t deal with this minor, minor issue.

Make sense?

That being said, based on the description English might be a second language for them so there’s that added issue.

And perhaps they have customers who assume their English is bad and thus speak very slowly and loudly to them, etc.

Either way, I think you handled the situation well and it’s good you recognized that she might have been jetlagged and thus wasn’t getting snappy about your stuttering.

[…] some pretty greaet posts this morning.  Pam writes “Sometimes I Just Stutter“; Danny posts a ‘cast on desensitization; and Steve writes about how choosing […]

First time I ever read your blog b/c I’m slow at doing things lately. WOW…I will sit down with my glass of coffee (if I ever find the filters) and read this.

I do agree with you on the “not apologizing” part. Why do we have to apologize that we stutter. Wow another video idea btw..thank you! 😀

At one of my jobs once, I was asked to give another colleague some instructions, because I did not want to have to talk to her on the phone (stutterers hate the phone) another time, I repeated the instructions, to which she responded, I got you the first time, you did not have to repeat yourself. I was a little bit put out but decided I could not be upset with her as it was not her fault that I had to do this.

On a lighter note, my husband who stutters as well was asked for a website address, he stuttered on www, and so the person got a real kick out of this saying that he said all the w’s one time.
That was indeed funny.

Greg, http://Stuttering.Me

Thanks for the clarification. That totally makes sense. I appreciate your feedback. I also appreciate that old adage, “Great minds think alike.”

Pam, I’m a few days behind on your blog. Not being a stutterer myself, I think it was fine that you said “I’m sorry”. You wanted to make sure that she wasn’t offended and there was a language barrier there also. I always tell people that you can’t get mad at a person who says they’re sorry. It doesn’t mean that you were guilty of anything, but means, sorry if you thoght I was being “smart”, which I wasn’t. Hope you understand.

Now I know why your nails always look so super!


Yes but I screwed up the moment and didn’t educate the person. LOL I just messaged you on FB about it. I felt so embarrassed, so terribly embarrassed. I felt like a failure 😦

I thought this was great! And I completely agree with Shayna’s assessment of the “I’m sorry”. That’s totally what I would have said too. Did your nails get perfect again yesterday?

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2022.
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