Zippiness & Perceived Wit

Zippiness & Perceived Wit

I came across a newspaper article called Did You Catch That. The gist is that some of us are talking too fast for other people to understand. For many people, quickness of speech is associated with quick thinking. So those fast-talking New Yorkers tend to look at Midwesterners as plodding bumpkins instead of thoughtfully intelligent. Conversely, the Midwesterners don’t think that highly of fast-talking either.

And internationally, it seems that slower-speaking people end up being the butt of jokes. From the article:

All over the world, speakers from some geographic regions tend to speak more slowly than those from others. And in every country that has been studied, people from the slower-speaking regions are stereotyped as stupid. This pattern was uncovered by Finnish linguists Jaakko Lehtonen and Kari Sajavaara, who had reason to be interested because Finns are thought to be slow and dull by neighboring Swedes. Lehtonen and Sajavaara suspected that the Finns’ characteristically slower rate of speech — and greater use of silence — might have something to do with the stereotype. So they investigated and found similar attitudes where one ethnic or regional group tends to speak more slowly than others: in Germany with East Frisians, in French attitudes toward Belgians, among the Swiss toward residents of Berne or Zurich, and among Finns themselves toward their compatriots from a region called Häme (pronounced HAH-may).

I had always wondered why the Belgians got made fun of in Europe, having first become aware of this in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Finally I know why!