Why we sound drunk when we speak

We Australians may be internationally known for our free-and-easy treatment of the English language. Sure, we slur, we drop l’s and t’s and we often cut words of three syllables or more back down to two and end it with an ‘o’ because, well, just because we can.

We are frequently accused of having little articulation, below-average vocabulary and our inability to adequately express our emotions often leads to confrontation and potential violence. Which is all well and good, because we’re just as prone to have a beer immediately afterwards with the bloke we just punched. Just as well we’re known for being bloody good sports too. 

So, what of our Aussie lingo? Why do we speak the way we do? Who even has the time to research this kind of thing?

Well, Victoria University public speaking and communications lecturer Dean Frenkel has, and he believes that we sound drunk because our ancestors were in fact drunk most of the time.

Yep, he reckons an alcoholic slur introduced by early settlers is to blame for our accent.

“The one thing in common all the cultures had when they came to Australia was alcohol and it brought people together,” Mr Frenkel said. “The early stages of colonial Australia happened under the influence and given that speech is like the flu, it’s contagious, when people talked they were handing these habits down. There is no doubt that our alcohol culture impacts our speech.”

Mr Frenkel reckons we only use two-thirds of our capacity to articulate. Evidently, we don’t even use all the muscles required to help us to speak ‘prop-er-lee’.

And get this: the average person has a vocabulary of about 35,000 words, the average university graduate 70,000 words and bilingual people have around 100,000 words. But, according to Mr Frenkl, the average Australian has a vocabulary of around 30,000 words. 

“It could be even less,” he said. 

Eh… what’s 5000 words anyway? We’ve probably cut back on the need for a few words through our innovative knack for combining them. Y’know, words like y’know and c’arn and didjabringthegrogalong?

So we may not be taken seriously, and we may be the butt of a few jokes for the way we speak but, evidently, there are advantages with our lazy diction. Mr Frenkel claims that those who don’t speak properly are more likeable than those who can pronounce their words in an audible and articulate manner.

“Not articulating our words makes us non-threatening on an international basis and people are not intimidated by our words or confronted by those who are smarter than they sound,” he said. “Within Australia you are more likely to be included socially if you don’t speak that well.”

I for one would rather be well liked than understood. Being understood is overrated. Being well liked makes you mates, and you can have a beer with mates.

Read more at www.news.com.au

Join the conversation at The Meeting Place

What do you think? Do you notice our lazy elocution? Is elocution a word that you would expect most Australians to comprehend? What about comprehend? Does this study into our lingo raise your eyebrows? Or do you just want to raise another glass? Do you feel like a beer right now? Ow bout it?

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