Having now completed 12 interviews for the Jon of All Trades Podcast (and posted 9 of them), I have spent more time listening to the idiosyncrasies of people’s voices than ever before. Each interview is usually just shy of an hour, which then takes me about two to edit.
That’s three hours of listening intently to someone speak into my headphones and removing a bunch of “ums,” “uhhhs,” and tongue clicks that disrupt the flow of a conversation. As a result of so much intimate time alone with these people, I have picked up a lot of nuances in the way people speak, and it’s made me appreciate how something so simple as a common language can have so many little shades of distinction, eccentricity and variance… which only serves to remind me of my favorite category of talkers. We’ll get there in a second.
I’m by no means a dialect expert, nor a speech pathologist, I’m a mere enthusiast right now. But I have picked up interesting little notes in each of my guests. One had a slight nasal quality to their voice, that I had never noticed before hearing it through headphones. Another had the slightest of lisps that you can only pick up when the word ends in “s.” Another drops the “th” sound on words in favor of a harder “t” that also only happens when that sound ends the word.
My first guest, Mike Gaughan, has such a distinctive voice that I can picture his mouth moving with every word. Even though you’ve likely never met him, I’ll bet if you listen to that episode, you can picture it too.
I used to keep a running list of Kristinisms, which is how I bonded with some of her friends the first time I met them when we started dating – I’m pretty sure we laughed over her oft-repeated phrase “Another random thought via (Long “I” sound) Kristin.” I lost that list, but one you can always catch from her is when she confirms your correct assumption and fires back with, “preeeehhhhhhtty…fuckinmuch.” Long drawn out first word, light speed on the last two.
I’ve even picked up weird stuff in myself. I hate the way I sound when I laugh. I cringe every time I laugh at one of my guest’s jokes because it means I can flagellate myself over it, just one more time. I also have a weird rhythm to the way I talk. I frequently like to declare that I’m starting a sentence with either a bold, “So…” followed by a long pause as I try to remember what I wanted to say next, or something laconic like, “But uhhhhh….” which serves the same purpose, but sounds dumber.
Which brings me to my favorite type of talker – the toddler who can basically form sentences, but has a terrible handle on syntax and diction, so things come out sounding hilarious pretty much no matter what they’re saying.
There’s a standup comic called Jo Koy, who does a bit about his son’s inarticulateness that puts me on the floor every time. Compared to his friend’s daughter, who speaks eloquently at a very young age, all Jo’s son can do is basically shout about his penis, that he nicknamed his “ting ting!” Daddy, my ting ting!
There exists a similar Jay Mohr bit about how his son sounded like an old Korean man for a short while that apparently does not exist online. He would stagger about like toddlers do and proclaim things like “Daddy go to wuhhk!”
I thought of those bits while visiting my own niece and nephew recently, and I missed how my nephew used to refer to himself in the third person and measure his love in units of trains. Tyson loves you more than 10 double decker trains! It was incredibly charming, sort of disorienting, and hugely entertaining. He’s turned into quite the thoughtful, considerate, inquisitive and articulate little man, which is great, but I miss the nonsense.
Thankfully, my niece is right in her zany speech weirdness prime. It’s glorious! She’s all breathy, sentences are missing many of their necessary grammatical components, she’s basically incapable of making hard consonants… think Fire Marshall Bill with all the malice and creepiness removed from it. Lemme show ya shuhshin…
Ina khookkhee daddy?
Whus ahnt Kwishen?
And then sometimes just flat declaratives that functioned as the funniest non-sequitirs you’ve ever heard.
Look, Delaney, the Easter Bunny brought you a bike.
She was like the Soup Nazi, only with regard to a gift someone attempted to give her.
I listen to her, and it brings me back to listening to the guests on my podcast. We all talked in this broken English, semi-formed, almost Pidgin-style at some point, I can only assume, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of verbal affectations these kids take on when they get older. And most of all, I can’t wait to be around this all the time with my own kids. I could listen to this all day, and I guess I will.
Lemme show ya shuhshin…