One man’s request for his followers to delete an ableist phrase from their vocabulary is rapidly gaining traction on TikTok.
Marc Winski, a New York City-based actor and disability advocate who bills himself as the “CEO of Stutter Awareness” on TikTok, brilliantly dismantled the phrase “Did I stutter?” which is frequently used to designate a speaker’s absolute certainty in what they’ve just said.
As Winski explained in his now-viral TikTok, people with stutters can speak and communicate things as confidently as those who do not have the speech condition, and using the phrase “Did I stutter?” to denote speaking with conviction robs agency from those who do happen to stutter.
“Saying this phrase can be so hurtful to an entire community of people,” Winski said. “It’s implying that just because people stutter that they can’t be heard or speak clearly or be confident in what they’re saying.”
“Quit it!” he added. “Use another phrase, like, ‘Did you hear me?’ Or, ‘Is that so hard to understand?’ Or maybe don’t say anything at all!”
Winski’s post blew up on April 9 when it was stitched by Evelyn Koh, known as @herspective on TikTok, who shared her own thoughts on the phrase “did I stutter?” with her over 567,000 followers.
“On this page, we practice radical listening,” Koh said in her video, which has since been viewed over 3.4 million times. “If someone with an identity that is different from ours speaks about what is hurtful, what is damaging, and what is offensive — we listen, learn, change, and use our social power to advocate for that person.”
“When a person with disability says something is ableism, it is ableism,” she added. “If they say something is hurtful, it is hurtful. That’s not up for debate. As a person who does not stutter, I am deferring to [Winski] on what is damaging to people who do stutter.”
Viewers seemed to take the tandem explanation to heart — including multiple users who identified as either having stutters or knowing those who do.
“I have a stutter. I had someone compliment me after a speech [saying,] ‘did she stutter,'” one user commented on the TikTok. “I had to look them in the eye and say ‘I did. Multiple times. My words still have value.'”
“My husband has stuttered his whole life,” another user wrote. “It’s very hurtful when people do this.”
“I had a stutter and even never realized how this phrase reinforces the very ableism that isolates this community, thank you for sharing!” wrote a third, with another commenting, “I’ve said this in the past and I’m here to say sorry.”
The phrase “Did I stutter?” — which was popularized by Judd Nelson’s character in the 1985 film The Breakfast Club and again in 2008 by an episode of hit comedy series The Office — is still frequently used to this day both in pop culture and everyday speech, despite the negative implications it has on the stuttering community, consisting of roughly 3 million people of all ages in America alone.
Winski told In The Know he decided to share his TikTok, which was in response to a clip of another creator saying “Did I stutter?”, in an effort to educate viewers about how “triggering” the phrase can be for members of the stuttering community.
“It implies that you can’t be clear and heard if you stutter and your words matter less, which just isn’t true at all,” he explained. “It just perpetuates the stigma.”
Winski explained that even though some people on social media may use the phrase “derogatorily” and “on purpose,” he noted that for a majority of the population, “Did I stutter?” is thrown around as a casual saying, which made this the perfect teaching moment for those who may not have known about its offensive nature.
“When I kept seeing ‘Did I stutter?’ popping up more and more in videos, I knew it was time to educate,” Winski said. ‘Not just for me but for an entire global community of stutterers … I always say, we all have the ability to really listen, learn, change, and grow.”
After sharing his message, Winski says the TikTok community’s reaction has been nothing short of “unbelievable.”
“Millions of people from around the world saying ‘I had NO idea and I’m sorry. I will stop using that phrase from now on and tell others to do the same!'” he said of the response. “It’s been so beautiful and humbling to see how people can listen and change.”
As for the original poster, Manon Mathews, who shared the video that Winski replied to — she, too, apologized for using the phrase in a comment on his video, writing, “aw I’m sorry! Please forgive me,” explaining that she was trying to portray a character that was an a**.
“I’m sure she, as well as many others, isn’t intending to be mean or rude, and I’d love it if she would also help spread awareness through her platform,” Winski said of the creator. “We are all part of the change.”
Winski also wants to reassure his intention is never to shame an individual, like Matthews, for misspeaking, but rather to educate on the “effects and consequences” of what is implied by phrases like “Did I stutter?”
“I never want to shame others because of something that’s been engrained in their minds by preconceived notions brought by culture and media,” he explained. “I’ve learned that anger usually puts people immediately into a defensive mode — especially on social media where tone is tough to decipher at times, and people are already divided — whereas listening and questioning can really open others up to discussion, and then change. I love to create that space for others to share and relate. I really try to create that offline, too, through the many workshops and talks that I give around the world.”
To TikTok users, Winski’s series on stuttering has been eye-opening — and to him, the chance to create such content and share it with millions has felt “incredible.”
“I’m so fortunate and honored to be able to help give a voice to what sometimes quite literally is the voiceless,” he said.
“This doesn’t just go for stuttering but for any disability community that hasn’t been seen and represented in mainstream media,” he added. “It’s important that we collaborate and help each other spread these messages. I’m excited to be a part of it!”
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