Make Room For The Stuttering

“I Stutter”, “Oh, I Bite My Nails”

Posted on: December 7, 2009

This was the line from an episode of the 1968 television series, “Here Come The Brides”.  I vaguely remember it from my childhood, and then, only in re-runs.  I visited a friend who is a covert stutterer. I curiously asked her about the boxed DVD set which I noticed among the rest of her collection. She told me about the show and asked if I was interested in watching the pilot episode.

My friend is an expert on the show, I kid you not. She is a member of the show’s fan club, which formed in 1999, and its yahoo group, which she joined a year later.  Later in the evening, she showed me scrapbooks, newsletters, and pictures of fan club get-together events (or GT’s as known by the fan club) held over the years.

She shared that she began watching the program as a 13-year old, and when one of the regular characters opened his mouth and stuttered, she was hooked. There were 27 episodes in the first season, and the character of Jeremy stuttered openly in every episode. He and his brothers and other characters talked about it, using the actual word “stuttering”, instead of euphemisms sometimes heard today, 40 years later. My friend proudly told me that she believed it to be the first, and maybe only, television series that aired weekly that had a regular character who stuttered openly. (The show was canceled after the second season, prompting the fan club to rally the TV people to get the first season produced on DVD).

Being a person who stutters,  I was very interested. I wanted to see how it was handled. So we watched the pilot episode on a Saturday night over some good libation. She was clearly interested in my opinion. And later admitted that she had been wanting to ask my opinion of this show.

So, I watched and waited to hear Jeremy stutter. Stutter he did and I was impressed. The stuttering was very realistic. My friend shared that the actor (teen heart-throb at the time, Bobby Sherman) had worked with a SLP to learn how to stutter. Jeremy’s character had repetitions, blocks and accompanying facial tension. Sometimes, he was made fun of by other characters and his brothers stood up for him. They were not embarrassed by their brother’s stuttering.

The part that hooked my friend, and impressed me too, was when Jeremy decided to tell a girl he really liked that he stuttered. You could tell he had mustered up his courage to tell her. He came out with it, very directly. “Candy, I stutter.”  The pretty girl just looked at Jeremy and said, “Oh, I bite my nails” and held out her fingers for him to look at her bitten nails.

It was priceless! Perfect! Here this kid was petrified to tell a girl he adored that he stutters, thinking that she would think it so awful that she would want nothing to do with him. Instead, she thought it no bigger a deal than biting your nails.

This was forty years ago! I never would have guessed that stuttering would have been talked about so openly on a regular weekly television series. And treated as if it was no big deal.

Wow, imagine if we had that mindset today. Imagine if there was a weekly television series today that featured a regular ordinary character who stutters. Not one who is made to look ignorant, or is faking it, or only shows up for five minutes for comedic effect.

What do you think? Isn’t that a great response to someone telling you he stutters? I give much kudos to the folks who were involved with that series. We can all learn from that “its no big deal attitude”. I certainly did!

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6 Responses to "“I Stutter”, “Oh, I Bite My Nails”"

When I first read the title, I thought it would be along the lines of, “Don’t think you know what it’s like to have this challenge — it’s a lot harder on stutterers than biting your nails.”

From your reaction, the intention was “Your stuttering bothers listeners as much as the bitten nails do.”

Perspective is everything.

I don’t know.. my first reaction is that they’re trivializing stuttering, it’s not just a bad habit it’s a neurological issue. Maybe that was an accurate assumption for the time the show was made and her reaction is definitely a heck of a lot better than some other reactions that are out there so basically I’m confused now. It’s neat there was a show with a main character that stutters.. I will try to find it and watch it.

so, I actually watched this.. I stand corrected.

It was nice to see a tv stutter so well done.

Thanks for recommending it. have you seen the rest?

I so remember this show! I too was hooked after the first episode. I agree with you Pam, if only a show like that with real stuttering could be aired today. Also, glad to know the fist season is on DVD; something I would love to invest in.

If stuttering was portrayed more and in a realistic fashion, the public would be more exposed and maybe become desensitized. We so need a good role model who is really out there. I can only hope.

Yes, it would be great if there could be a stuttering character in a contemporary TV series (sitcom or straight drama) who would stutter realistically and be regarded by the other characters just as Jeremy was. Especially if the series turned out to be popular, viewed by millions of people, it could do much to dispel some of the wrong ideas and attitudes about stuttering and stutterers that many people have. Unfortunately it’s simpler and easier for writers, producers and directors to create characters and situations that portray stuttering in the usual way and with the all-too-common attitudes and reactions. After all, stuttering is always dependable as a laugh generator in a situation comedy.

Great replies everyone! I too am motivated to maybe buy the series and watch more of his stuttering and how it is dealth with by other regular characters.

@CricketB yes, perception is everything. If I don’t percevice my stuttering as a problem, then my communication partner will follow suit.

@hthrb I didn’t really see it as being trivialized. Rather, I thought it was quite progressive to be realistically portraying stuttering some 40 years ago, where I would have expected it to be treated more as something to be laughed at. I do wish people would react like that: hey, no big deal.

@jamie and @David Yeah, we sure need more positive and realistic media portrayal. Then we could made a dent on clearing up stigma and stereotypes.

Thanks all for sharing your opinions. I live when we generate good discussions!

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2017. 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 2017.