“I stutter and that’s ok because what I say is worth repeating” is a very empowering quote that focuses on the fact that stuttering isn’t wrong and what you say is important not how. It’s no wonder that this quote has been making its rounds in the worldwide stuttering community for almost two decades. Online and offline on t-shirts, newsletters, awareness posters, and class presentations by kids who stutter. I also made it into a Franky Banky button.
I was eager to learn who created this quote so I did a little digging. But I wondered if I’d even be able to find the inventor of such a ubiquitous quote. Luckily, my digging was short. It turns out that one night in the early 2000s, Stephen Hood of Alabama, USA, came up with the idea of making a t-shirt that would enable the wearer to advertise their stuttering.
“For about 45 years, I worked in the area of stuttering. First as a student and later as a speech language pathologist and university professor.” Stephen recalls. “During these years it became increasingly obvious that attempts to try to hide, conceal, and avoid stuttering were bound to failure in the long run. I tried to come up with ways to help my clients be more willing to accept stuttering as something they sometimes would do, and something they could ultimately learn to accept and modify and change.”
Acceptance is a popular technique of coping with stuttering. It’s a shift in perspective from being ashamed and hiding your stuttering to the opposite, more positive outlook that can lead you to being able to express yourself freely and let your true self shine. Stephen explains that “one way to show acceptance is through what a lot of us referred to as advertising. Being open, accepting, and willing to advertise the stuttering”. In other words, telling people that you stutter. Also, when you’re ok with your stuttering, it also sends the message to the people that you’re talking to that stuttering isn’t something they need to feel uncomfortable about.
Stephen explains that at the time, a lot of speech pathologists were speaking and writing about acceptance when the topic came up during an NSA chapter meeting one night. That’s when he came up with the idea of making a t-shirt. “Back then there were tons of t-shirts for tons of different causes and it occurred to me that maybe I could come up with an idea to help people be willing to advertise their stuttering to show acceptance. I wanted to convey that stuttering was acceptable and what people had to say was important and worth listening to. What ended up emerging was ‘Stuttering is ok because what I say is worth repeating’.” It seems the quote morphed a bit over time.
No matter the variation, its central themes are always an effective dose of encouragement.
Stephen had about a dozen t-shirts made and wore one at the NSA conference that year. “I remember that there was some picture of me wearing the shirt that was printed in the newsletter Letting Go. There was a lot of demand for the shirts. I am quite sure that I raffled off a couple of them at the auction!” A while later, Stephen gave the Stuttering Foundation of America permission to produce and sell the shirts. “I knew this would be a for a good cause”.
And the rest is history.
A big thank you to Stephen for creating this quote, allowing the stuttering community to run with it, and most importantly encouraging us all to accept and advertise our stuttering and focus on what we want to say instead of how!
The “I stutter and that’s ok because what I say is worth repeating” button makes a great advertising starter. It is available in the Stuttering Awareness collection of five buttons starring Franky Banky, a cartoon fox who stutters who appears throughout my stuttering survival book entitled Stuttering is Cool: A Guide to Stuttering in a Fast-Talking World. Both are available for purchase in the Stuttering is Cool Online Shop.
Have you enjoyed reading this origin story? Read the one about the “Sure I stutter. What are you good at?” button.