Recently I was shocked to discover that I was observing and ignoring a major shift in American speech patterns. For some reason, I had decided it was just a part of “Young folks” speech. Woops!
This August I was in 14 performances of Shakespeare’s MacBeth. I was one of two actors able to sit in the front row with patrons until my entrances. Sometimes they did not realize I was in the play. Just an old guy wearing a “dress”. I usually wear hearing aids, but neither glasses or hearing aids in the performances. (My company indulges me with smaller parts nowadays at age 80. I was “old man” and “Doctor” .)
I noticed that sometimes I was not able to understand the actors 20 feet away. I put this down to age etc. and ignored it for about 7 shows since I knew mostly what they saying. So I was kind of startled when, after performances audiences members I did not know came and thanked me for being able to hear and understand me.
It took me awhile to process these complements. What was different here. Then I realized I had been trained as to pace, delivery, audience size, etc. differently than many today. Automatically I just speak more slowly and with my emphasis varying. According to our director, it is really hard to persuade young folks today not to speak very rapidly. It now is an automatic speech pattern.
I knew school age kids here do speak in a rapid fire delivery and volume. As a foster grandparent in classrooms often ask the kids to repeat. This is not just because I wear hearing aids. Even when looking directly and carefully, sometimes I have trouble separating their speech into individual words.
Then I watched all younger folks doing the same. Then I watched panels of trained political and media types discussing the daily events on TV. Not only did they often speak very rapidly when getting their views across, but they constantly interrupted and tried to drowned out their panel members. Many media types are properly trained. It seems that they mostly are older folks.
This is a culture and generational shifts as to what is normal and expected in speech patterns. Now I see it all over.
Addendum to USA changing speech patterns
Watching Aretha Franklin funeral today. Almost all the adults who spoke were trained in pace, diction, etc. except for a few who used some “cultural cant”, and the youngest children who actually managed to be understandable.
Sometimes I missed the intent because I got caught up in deliveries. Again, almost all the speakers were older.
A joy to appreciate this speech clinic even if a probable support for younger speech speed, etc.