Friday, March 6, 1998 at 11:01:38
FP's are utilized by persons who have no idea what they are going to say in an attempt to think of "something".
I think you're right that FPs are often used by people in order to stall while preparing the following word or phrase. However, it may not be the only purpose. Consider the following:
A: How about going to a movie tonight?
B: Uh, I can't. I have to study for a test.
The FP by B may simply be interpreted as a stalling move, but it is interesting to note that FPs often occur in these kinds of declinations. An alternative interpretation might be that when one is invited to do something, it is polite to consider the invitation before declining it. Thus, B might be uttering a FP as a social obligation--to mitigate the potential impact of the declination. A simple "I can't" would have been taken as a rude rejection. In this respect, a FP may have a communicative purpose.
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