Hmmmmmm (a silly, little grammar lesson)

“Mommy, look, the sky is all blue and white,” my first-born says a decade ago while buckled in her booster seat in the back of the car on the way to preschool.

I glance in the rear-view mirror and see her stretching her neck to see more sky, the sun splashing on her little brunette bob haircut that frames her face like Dora the Explorer, her favorite back then.

“Yeah, those clouds sure are fluffy aren’t they? I wish I could have one as my pillow,” I say.

“Me, too,” she says.

“How do you think we might get one?” I ask.

“Hmmmmmm. I think I might need my stool,” she says.

“Hmmmmmm. I think so, too. I say.

Apparently the latest New Year’s trend is to choose a word of the year instead of resolutions that set us up for failure. So I’ve decided—in  honor of that inquisitive little moment of infinite possibilities lodged in my memories and recorded in my journal—that my word of the year is going to be Hmmmmmm.


I bet some people think Hmmmmmm isn’t a real word. Well, I’m happy to report that Hmmmmmm is an official member of one of the eight parts of speech in the English language, known as the Interjections.

If you don’t know what an Interjection is, don’t feel bad. Lots of people don’t. I was an English major and I had to look it up again. Language gets a little tricky sometimes, so to help me keep it all straight, I like to compare those eight parts of speech to high school cliques.

Let’s start with The Nouns and The Verbs.”The Cool Kids.”

♦Nouns are the “Class Leaders.” They’re the ones that get elected to student council and take action! Sometimes they get a little too formal and proper for my personal taste, but without them, let’s face it: we’re a bunch of nothingless nobodies going no place.

♦Verbs are the “Athletes” (of course) running circles around everyone, except when they fall asleep in class.

♦Next up, the Adjectives. They’re the “Beatniks” or “Hipsters,” depending on which decade we’re talking about. They attend poetry readings in caves and lure the straight-laced Nouns with their flowery, thrift-store fashions and witty banter. You have to watch your back around them, or they’ll cast a spell and turn that shiny new car you just got for your 16th birthday into a rusty old green antique.

♦Adverbs are the “Environmentalists,” marching around the hallways with signs advocating change, trying to get those letter-jacket wearing Verbs to slow down or wake up, or at the very least, recycle their empty bottles of Gatorade more diligently.

♦Pronouns are the “Intellectuals.” The true cool kids. They can do everything the Nouns can do, but often do so in disguise, because they prefer to keep a low profile.

♦Prepositions are the “Techies.” They team up with Nouns to keep things orderly and explain to all the others when, why, or where something is taking place. For example, the new kid might tap a Preposition on the shoulder and ask, “Could you please tell me where the lunchroom is?” The Preposition would then respond in a kindly fashion: “It’s around the corner, across from the computer lab, but hurry or you won’t make it on time.

♦Conjunctions are the “Social Butterflies.” They’re the glue that brings the school body together, getting everybody to put their hands in the air AND do the wave in unison at pep rallies, despite all the differences in status.

♦Last, but not at all least, are the Interjections, otherwise known as the “Drama Kids.” They wear their emotions and feelings on their sleeves, good and bad,live in the moment, and have really cool names. Aha!! Ooh-la-la. Whoah! Yipee! Yummy! Ewwww! Gadzooks! And of course, my BFF—Hmmmmmm.

Actually, now that I think of it, some of them might be foreign exchange students.

Interjections may not be as essential to the clarity of a sentence as the other seven parts of speech, but they’ve got heart. They inspire us to express ourselves, stay engaged, and look up at the sky and fluffy clouds and imagine the heights we could reach if we had a little pink stool. Hmmmmmm.

Whichever group your word of the year fits into, I hope your 2016 is filled with lots of inquisitive little moments of infinite possibilities to brighten your days. Happy New Year from Hmmmmmm and me.

I’m Julie Jo Severson, mom of three and freelance writer. I launched this blog Carvings On A Desk in 2015. It’s where I connect with my own voice, write the stories down, and doodle about past, present, future clinking glasses and making peace. To see my other recent posts, click here.

About Julie Jo Severson

Julie Jo Severson, former PR girl, is now a freelance writer, journalist, editor, and lost-and-found attendant for two teens and a tween. This is where she doodles about past, present, future clinking glasses and making peace.

50 comments on “Hmmmmmm (a silly, little grammar lesson)

  1. This gave me such a laugh – what a fun read. And all so true! I guess it takes a real word nerd to really love that sort of thing. 😀 I lost track of you (sorry!) and now here you are again! Hope to connect more in the days ahead.
    Meanwhile, isn’t hmmm sort of a great concept? It’s like deep pondering…

  2. Hi Lisa:) Thanks for stopping by–glad you found me in the forest again. Yeah, I was in a silly mood when I wrote this. The hardest part was figuring out how many m’s were in Hmmmmmm. I decided on six. Because when it has only three, it can come across as a little snooty or sarcastic. See you soon!

  3. OH my gosh how I LOVE THIS!!! I giggled and nodded all the way through it. I think I would be hanging with you in the drama dept, Julie! Oh this is brilliant. Sharing!!!
    And btw- thanks for the impromptu English class. I learned SO much! When’s the test? Oh wait. I HATE TESTS!!! Good LORD DON’T MAKE ME TAKE A TEST!! NO!!!! OY. UGH. Sigh… *Wink wink*


    No test? WOOHOO!!! YEEHAW!!! YIPPEE!!!

  4. LOL! No tests! I was an English major, NOT an English teacher. Truthfully, I’d probably fail a test, too. I mostly go by gut instinct these days. Well, it makes me happy that I made you giggle, at least for a few minutes. You’re always so complimentary, and your visits here always make me smile. All the best to you, my friend.

  5. OK, I absolutely love this and you brought me back to 8th grade English, where and when we had to diagram sentences and pull apart each part to describe what part of speech they were, but only this way more cooler and much more fun. Seriously, Happy New Year love your word for the year, too! 🙂

  6. Lol – love it. I need to say Hmmm a long time before agreeing to anything. I love how you broke the cool kids down to understanding. I’m a walking preposition. LOL! You should do one of these on dangling participles. Hmmmm.

  7. Love this: “Actually, now that I think of it, some of them might be foreign exchange students.” Giggled at the realization. Also, love this word for a mantra. Giving yourself the space to say Hmmm to life’s moments this year – lovely.

  8. I skipped FTSF last week and look what I missed! Thanks to Chris at the MomCafe for sharing your post. This is a gem. I thought it was a Huff Po (or other highly esteemed) website. Not that your blog isn’t. But this is seriously goooood. Why don’t you shoot it over to Huff Po Parents and see if they bite? Note: I have never been on Huff Po Parents. I tried once and heard the loudest silence ever in reply. Just sayin’.

  9. So, so clever! When I had to teach grammar in middle school, I always tried to do things like this. I told the girls that without adjectives, you’d never know what kind of guy your friend fixed you up with–was he short or tall, rich or poor, kind or mean, etc. All you’d know was “he’s a guy.” I also told them without plural nouns, we could only ever have one dollar, one potato chip, one shoe, etc.

    I love your idea of “hmmmm,” and I may have to steal it from you for my year, too!

  10. I can totally get behind hmmmm as your word – it’s pensive, thoughtful, and full of possibilities. I love how you handed this, Julie – so clever and original!

  11. Juli, I love this! You could probably teach kids about grammar this way and it would be a lot more fun 🙂 Yes to Hmmmm as word of the year, and touching clouds with the help of pink stools. So glad you linked up with Maddy at Writing Bubble! She’s super lovely and I really enjoy her link up.

  12. I was smiling and chuckling all the way though this post! I love those descriptions of parts of speech and I think I love interjections best of all. ‘Hmmmmm’ is an inspired choice of word for the year – so full of possibilities. I’ve been thinking of finding a word for 2016 but haven’t come up with anything yet. ‘Hmmmmm’ suits me down to the ground now I come to think of it! Thanks so much for linking this fab post to #WhatImWriting, it’s lovely to have found your blog x

  13. This made me smile. I was an English teacher before I took time out to have my son (and write!), and I alway bored myself to tears having to teach actual proper grammar. I never quite got to the stage of creating a whole world for all the parts of speech, but if I had this is exactly the sort of nerdy thing I would have come up with (leaving my students staring quizzically at me whilst I chuckled to myself at the front of the class…) Here’s to a year of smiles – and wonder 🙂 xx

Comments From Your Desk to Mine!