The Lost, Civilised Art of Listening

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Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Wed, 2018-11-28 09:14

I took a lesson with a speech pupil tonight. To my surprise he informed me he'd just watched my interview from 1994 on MSTV with Jose Carreras, and said it made him realise the truth of my routine observations about the inability of anyone nowadays, on or off TV, to listen.

Everyone talks over everyone else, in the most disgusting fry-quacking, attention-seeking tones imaginable. Everyone thinks his is the only opinion that counts. It's a short step from that to everyone bashing everyone else over the head. The level of primordial contempt involved in both is not distant. I would urge people to note how in the Bruno/Linzio transmissions, there is ample listening and ample talking by both of us. True conversations, without compromising our ability and right to disagree.

Here's the interview. Note how at the end, Jose himself remarks how unusual it was:

Subtitles vs Voiceover

Bruno's picture

All Hollywood movies are dubbed in Italy. You can clearly understand everything that is being said, and the enunciation is impeccable. Original language, however... you'll probably want to turn the subtitles on.

Original Italian movies are almost as bad as the Americans though.

"What did he say?? Huh??"

Rebel With a Cause

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

I too think the-celebrated James Dean was the first mumbler. I don't completely condemn this new style, because I think it's a bit more realistic, and thus better relatable. Nevertheless, Vincent Price had outspoken, defiant contempt for this acting and speaking style right up to his dying day.

Vincent Price Was Gold Standard!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Yes, at a certain point mumbling by actors became fashionable, just as incoherence did in philosophy. That may go back as far as James Dean. At a certain point for sure the boys began to mumble. But they don't fry-quack like the girls. That is an ultra-excruciating twist whose origins still baffle me to the assault on civilised speech. In other words, there was a memo that said, "Don't just be incoherent; be ugly." I'd love to see it. If Amy is anything to go by, they did receive it at the ARI. Maybe Soros sent it out?!


Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

One interesting point about fry- or sizzle-speaking: It may have begun around the 1960s, as seen in New Left, decadent Hollywood. Actors after that tended to be "mumblers" like Robert De Niro, and very unlike the "classical" articulationists like Vincent Price. There was evidently a real demarcation here, including real anger by the old folks toward the more realistic new speakers. I don't know in Lindsay or anyone else has thoughts or speculation on this...


Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Wow. It's wonderful to hear this all the way back from 1994! Smiling

A wonderful speaker

Richard G McGrath's picture

I have just spent an entertaining twenty minutes listening to a speech by someone who does know how to enunciate English language and grammar correctly: Lord Christopher Monckton. You simply have to admire the man's mind, as early in his speech, and without reading from a script, he suggested that the rather than calling a spade a spade, the IPCC would call it " a one-person-operated, manually-controlled, foot-powered implement of simple and robust yet adequately efficacious ligno-metallic composition, designated primarily - but by no means exclusively - for utilisation on the part of hourly-paid operatives deployed in the agricultural, horticultural or construction trades or industries (as the case may be), for the purposes of carrying out such excavational tasks or duties that may, from time to time, be designated by supervisory grades as being necessary, expedient, desirable, apposite or germane, with regard to the ongoing furtherance of the task or objective in hand or, on the other hand, underfoot." Brilliant.           


Newberry's picture


It feels like an assault...

Olivia's picture

Another thing my pupil asked me the other night was why I considered fry-quacking an assault on civilisation itself.

But really, I feel it as such because it’s a concrete example of the great loss of a standard that once marked professionalism, itself a standard in the art of communication that signalled the worth of something to hear.

Imagine thinking one is going to an evening to hear Anna Netrebko sing, but instead only hearing Florence Foster Jenkins. That’s exactly what the “assault” feels like.


Lindsay Perigo's picture

Peter Williams doesn't rate at all in my book. I'm surprised to hear he's still on. The Kasper who has just posted below was with me one time in Auckland when PW, knowing my opinion of him, resolutely refused to engage in eye contact as we passed each other in the street.

You need to know I haven't watched any news on TV1 or TV3 for nearly a decade, so I can't comment about whether a lisp is now a prerequisite. All I know is that it's not a case of the bar being low—there's no bar at all. There are no speech standards whatsoever that an applicant must meet. In my day 98 out of 100 were turned down for sub-standard speech.

My disgust at the fry-quacking that is now universal is not an affectation. It makes my blood boil, and I become murderous. If I were to become murderous at 6 pm every day there'd be a high chance of actual murder being committed at some point, and it's not a priority for me to end my days in jail.

The only TV news I watch is on Fox, since American politics interests me much more than NZ anyway—but even then I watch with the mute on, and unmute only when a male I know to be well-spoken is speaking. The females are all atrocious fry-quackers. Shannon Bream and Laura Ingraham bring out the murderer in me. And don't get me started on Jessica Tarlov or Adrienne Elrod. These specimens are crimes against humanity. Sub-human.

Another thing my pupil asked me the other night was why I considered fry-quacking an assault on civilisation itself. George Orwell explained why, decades ago, in a piece I cited in my own article, Rice for the Putts, now itself nearly a decade old. I'll resurrect it and post it below this thread.

One of the things...

Olivia's picture

apart from the galling fry quacking of American girls all over the media universe, that just makes me squirm is that Americans don’t pronounce their “t”s.
‘Twidder,' ‘bedder than...’ etc.

So the next time you mention Plato, dear Bruno, and I say this in a loving way of course, I command you to say ‘Plato’ and not ‘Play-dough’ and ‘Aristotle’ and not ‘Arisdoddle’, who was a bugger for the ‘boddle.' Because I’m listening. Eye

Linzio the Aristocrat

Bruno's picture

Re: The Bruno e Linzio transmission, I've received comments exactly to that effect, that we actually listen to each other and answer the point. As for proper enunciation and pronunciation, Linzio is an aristocrat in a non-aristocratic age. I wholeheartedly agree with his distaste for the fry-quacking noise pollution that comes out of so many people's mouths today.

Terrific piece, Lindsay. They

PhilipD's picture

Terrific piece, Lindsay.

They don't make 'em like they used to. (It's probably considered too long for today's audiences now, anyway)

2 Questions if you have the time:

Is a lisp considered advantageous for television presenters now? Seems every second reporter has one.

Peter Williams- I can't listen to him. All that weird word stress, does my head in. How does he rate in your book?

Very True

Kasper's picture

.. and I have seen first hand Lindsay's listening skills. (The What)

There is an excellent book on exactly this subject by Nancy Kline that is just excellent. (Here is how)


cheers Lindsay

J Cuttance's picture

I needed to read this, being crippled with many crap-listener friends.

On a related note, Stuff editor Patrick Crewdson launched his climate drivel project yesterday, refusing to turn his ear to scepticism because it wouldn't be balanced - his words, I am not making this up.

After reading that you might need to unwind with my op-ed in this week's (Nov 29) Advocate South which I start so; Today I'm going to slag off our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.


Edit: I've just notice my editor left out the last line; It's a faith that needs the protection of the state because it can't survive on Jacinda's charms alone.

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