Originally Posted by Maideneer
I absolutely LOVE reading into filler words and their meanings and have casually studied this type of thing for years now. Starting off with "I mean" projects an aura of no confidence in what you're about to say, and it also means the word "But" is not far behind, therefore it's usually a statement of displeasure dressed up in soft wording, almost to let the recipient down easy.
I mean, I like your gift, but, I'm not sure it's my thing.
I mean, it's not as if I left you at the party alone, but, you did have it coming.
I mean, the Yankees don't need Cano, but, it would be preferable to have him.
That's only true when used in the context of the examples like the ones you just used.
A very common turn of phrase here is to make an argument about something, and it doesn't matter if it's a negative or positive argument, and within it say something like "I mean there's no way that can be true, because...".
In that context it's not a lack of confidence in the succeeding statement, it's emphasis.
Similarly, you can follow up a point you've just made with "I mean, come on" which is basically demanding agreement, but still having confidence in your own point (because you know disagreement is going to result in re-stating your point
"I mean, it can't be, can it?" could also be rhetorically demanding agreement, or it could be asking for agreement/opinion. Depends on the tone.