Translation:Um, excuse me.
@lessthanthre3 あのう is just the longer, more hesitant version of あの. It's commonly written as あのー or あのーー, or however long you feel like holding the お sound. There's no real difference in politeness, aside from keeping someone waiting longer than necessary for you to finish thinking out loud.
The problem is that in English, it makes you less fluent, and any English course, especially a speech course, will tell you to leave it out.
That creates a few problems. First of all, a proper translation tells what a native speaker would say to convey the same information. Second of all, um isn't a word used in writing. Third of all I keep getting it marked wrong, because autocorrect keeps changing it to "I'm" because it thinks that um isn't a word.
That makes the whole thing awkward.
I agree with you that it's best to think of すみません as an expression, but I belieive the expression did come from a negative conjugation.
In the same vein as はじめまして originated from a longer phrase, I think すみません came from something along the lines of 「ご迷惑をかけて気が済みません」 meaning "I've inconvenienced you, and I don't feel at ease about it".
You are correct. すみません indeed comes from the verb 済む (すむ), which means "to settle," "to manage with," "to be okay with," with the expression meant to imply that one is not okay with the actions that they are committing or have committed. You also see this verb used in なくて済む, ~ずに済む, to mean "to be okay with not doing," or more broadly, "to get by without" or "not have to."
Not quite. They both have different functions equal to "um", "ah", "uh," etc. in English. "Etto" is most commonly used for when you are thinking of something and not sure what to say, like if you're stumbling on a sentence or don't know the answer to a question. It can also be a reaction sort of like "huh..?" in some situations. "Ano", on the other hand, is like a more polite "um." You use it if you want to hedge what you're saying - like if you're trying to correct someone in a polite way (eg. "Um, I thought it was...), or know what you're going to say but want to sound a little unsure for politeness and so on. The example here is "Um, excuse me," and I imagine this is meant to be read like you're asking for directions from a stranger or something like that, because it sounds very polite. Long explanation but I hope it made sense! Sorry for no kana, I don't have a Japanese keyboard on my phone.
Actually, grammatically, sumimasen is the polite-negative form of sumu (to settle, to be clear). This word, over time, has evolved into a fixed one-word catch-all expression of 'Excuse me', or 'Apologies'.
As far as why it is polite, it is because they follow the -masen form. More simple forms end in -nai. Sumanai becomes sumimasen. Aru becomes arimasen.
In other words, あのう serves the same purpose as "excuse me" in English, which is used exactly in those circumstances. So あのう、すみません is how one would say "excuse me."
If I wanted to tell someone how to say "excuse me" in Japanese, that phrase might be suitable. Likewise, if someone learning English wanted to know the English equivalent, I'd teach them "excuse me." No language source says that the proper way to say it in English is to put an "um" in front of it, and if that were remotely the case, then someone who spoke any language who was learning English would be told that.
So "excuse me" is a better translation, without the "um."
If I told someone to say that in Japan if they wanted to get someone's attention, and is the equivalent of "excuse me," you are unlikely to get a teacher who says "no it isn't because that means 'um, excuse me.'" That would imply that it's better to leave off the "あのう" .
Ironically, these same lessons are full of phrases that Duolingo translates to an English phrase that would be used in the same situation, even though the word for word translation would be nothing alike. I have no idea why Duolingo insists on the opposite here, instead of considering the whole thing a phrase that corresponds with a specific phrase in English.
Well, yeah - in that specific context before すみません it totally could! But what about in instances like how I used it to start that last sentence - would that be あの? Only reason I ask is that I've seen it in subtitles that way before, although I realize that may simply be a colloquial translation - 'well' is a funky word in that particular usage, and it may only be context that led to the translation