Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic Ties the Knot is a chick-lit synthesis of Bridget Jones and Sex and the City that follows the adventures of English expat Becky Bloomwood in New York City. Here’s a quote from page 14.
I take another gulp of my cocktail, draining the glass. “Delicious. Shall we have another one?”
“What was in that?”
“Erm…” I squint vaguely at the bottles lined up in the cocktail cabinet. “I’m not sure.”
Here’s another from page 18.
“What is that?” he says slowly.
“It’s a cocktail cabinet!” I say brightly.
“Where has it come from?”
“It…umm…actually, I bought it today.”
Erm looks like a Britishism to me. I can’t quite hear it in my head, but it nonetheless evokes a faintly exotic filled pause. Meanwhile umm is just plain old-fashioned North American umm. Is Kinsella’s use of both an inconsistency, or is British erm only utterance-initial?