I know you’ve heard it said heaps of times and maybe you’ve even said it yourself, “Good Lord, those Americans are loud!” Okay, I’ve said it too and well… I’m an American as well as an Australian. I know it’s fun to slam Americans when they’re silly and I do a fair amount of that myself.
We do have a rule in our house. The words you and Americans can never be used together. You can probably guess why.
At a recent dinner party, the host said something about meeting an American the day before and without thinking I said, “How loud was he?”
Andrew looked at me and said, “He wasn’t loud, he was American.”
I wrinkled up my face and said something really clever like, “huh?” I’m really good friends with his wife but it was the first time I’d met Andrew and I’m sure I made a great impression. Andrew lives in Sydney, has lived all over the world and as a young man spent a long time studying acting.
“Maureen, Americans aren’t “loud” it’s how you speak,” he said.
Even more confused than ever, I took my wine glass and my chair and moved so I could sit next to him and not be interrupted. It seems that in acting school one of the things you need to learn are accents so you can qualify for all sorts of different roles. I think I must have known this intuitively but when Andrew explained how it worked I was intrigued.
“Americans talk through the back of their mouths. It’s why they have Rs and accents are not as important as HOW they speak.”
“Please explain?” I asked.
He went on in detail about how Australians talk through the front of their mouths.
“Notice how little our lips move and we talk rather softly because of that,” he told me, “and we’re used to this volume as it’s how everyone talked when we were kids. We didn’t have Americans in our classrooms or in our homes.”
Americans speak from the backs of our mouths so we have, for lack of a better term, megaphone mouths. We’re not talking loudly, we’re just talking and it comes out loud because of how we talk and it’s not that we’re turning up the volume.
I instantly felt better about all the times I’ve cringed in a restaurant when a group of Americans were talking over everyone. They’re not yelling, they’re talking and they don’t realize they’re louder than people who talk from the fronts of their mouths. They’re used to talking around other Americans who all talk the same way.
Now to be fair, I have no scientific knowledge if this is true but it makes really good sense when I think about it. Andrew lived in the US for a while and he kept saying phrases with an American accent and then said the same thing with his normal Australian accent and the volume difference was striking. He said he wasn’t increasing the volume, only changing where the sound came from.
Try it. Talk with the front of your mouth and then open your mouth and talk from the back. I’ll never bitch about a loud American again and I will be careful when in a crowd to talk from the front of my mouth.