Monday, 2 December 2013

Tom Daley's sibilant 's'

The diver Tom Daley posted a video on YouTube in which he told his viewers that he has a boyfriend (if he made any more revelations in the last minute or so, I missed them because I stopped watching - he doesn't half go on). Some delightful person called RogerGT posted a comment saying 'Of course he's gay! He has a sibilant 's'.':
This is obviously a gross stereotype. While there may be a stereotypical 'gay' manner of speech, this is about campness rather than gayness, and Daley does not have camp mannerisms. This is likely to be a post-hoc application of new knowledge causing delusions of prior knowledge. Similarly, an acquaintance of mine said people often tell her they could hear the German in her accent after she reveals her nationality, despite the fact that she sounds entirely English.

More to the point, though, is that everyone's 's' is sibilant: that's the term for that particular type of 'hissing' sound. 'S', as normally pronounced, is the canonical example of a sibilant. So, not a good diagnostic for someone's sexuality then.

What RogerGT is probably referring to is the camp stereotype of 'lisping': producing a sound more like 'th' /θ/ instead of 's' /s/. Daley does actually do this a tiny bit, though I'd never noticed it before I went back and listened out for it.

So what  have we learnt today? Well, from a linguistic point of view, we've learnt that people are quick to stereotype or judge people based on their accent, that people don't use linguistic terminology right (jk we all knew that already), and that people are really extraordinarily good at spotting even tiny differences in the production of speech sounds.

No comments:

Post a Comment