Is it just me or has this word “anyway” crept into conversations to the extent that it’s distracting? Is it the new “whatever” or is it merely a pause while the speaker collects her thoughts to figure out what’s coming next? Would silence be better? The definition of “anyway” says that it’s used to confirm a point or idea just mentioned. Do we need the point confirmed? I don’t think so in most cases. If you’ve made the point, why must it be confirmed?
What if you counted how many times you hear “anyway” in common conversations in the coming week and report in on what you find? This is hard data, folks. Useless, but perhaps interesting. In some academic circles, maybe in those that study linguistics, there is possibly grant money available that will keep a research team gainfully employed over the next year. You can listen to people on the street, in a restaurant, on their iPhones and become an “anyway” spy. Forget the content of the conversations, just listen for “anyway” to pop up.
Anyway, it’s hard to find much that explains the repeated use of the word, not just occasionally but what seems like continually in casual conversations. One plausible explanation is the use of the word anyway as an adverbial conjunct, (eg in addition, so, then, otherwise, anyway, therefore, however) and adverbial disjuncts (e.g. frankly, wisely, really, surely, etc.) and that sounds to me like the speaker reaching for some kind of transition in order to continue talking. How about just taking a breath and listening instead of filling in the void anyway? Anyhow is a synonym for anyway.
Some of you must remember “valspeak” a common name for an American sociolect, originally of Southern Californians, in particular valley girls in the San Fernando Valley. This stereotype originated in the 1970s, was at its peak in the 1980s and lost popularity in the late 1990s and 2000s. One prime example was the widespread use of “like” as conversational filler. Elements of “valspeak” can now be found virtually everywhere English is spoken, particularly among young native English speakers. Qualifiers such as “like”, “way”, “as if!”, “totally” and “duh” are interjected in the middle of phrases and sentences as emphasizers.
My conclusion about anyway is that it belongs to the same lexiconic genre as many of those expressions that come under that heading of “conversational filler.” I like that and anyway, it fits. Seriously!