When the two genders are speaking to each other, they try to meet in the middle: “Males use uh about 14 percent less often when talking with a female rather than a male, and females use uh about about 20 percent more often when talking with a male rather than a female,” Liberman writes. (There’s not nearly as much accommodation with “um.”)
What Liberman found, essentially, was that young men speak like old women: “The rate of ‘um’ usage for the younger men is almost the same as the rate of ‘um’ usage for the older women.”
It’s hard to determine what, exactly, this says about how the two genders think about themselves—or their words. One 2001 paper found that men use all kinds of “language fillers” more frequently than women do. But a study published in June found that while men and women say either “um” or “uh” roughly equal amounts, women say “you know,” “like,” and “I mean” more often. That study suggested that people who use these types of “discourse markers” are more empathetic and conscientious—two traits women are often thought to be socialized to exhibit.