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Buzzing

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Topic: 6) Buzzing (1 of 2), Read 57 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Barbara Wallraff (msgrammar@theatlantic.com)
Date: Thursday, May 06, 1999 09:10 AM

Mark Schmidt-Fellner, of Riverside, Conn., writes: "My father did this to us a lot. He would ask for our attention and say that there was something in the newspaper (as an example) that would prove a point he was trying to make (usually something trivial from a long time ago). The phenomenon would occur as follows:

  • There is only one relevant sentence, usually located in the bottom part of the article.

  • Regardless, he would start reading from the top of the article.

  • As he would read aloud, he would realize that what he was reading was not at all relevant.

  • So, he would speed up his reading in anticipation of finding that one, relevant sentence.

  • He would end up reading faster than his mouth could move, so his words would become increasingly unintelligible, until he finally ended up just 'buzzing,' as his audience would look at him like a dog listening to a high-pitched noise.

  • Finally he would finally arrive at his 'pertinent' sentence, overenunciate it, and look up like he had just solved one of life's great mysteries.

  • He could never understand why he had lost the attention of his audience.

    "The word I am looking for would be a word for the unintelligible noise, usually 'zzzreee zre zrereeeh!,' that someone reading aloud makes as he skims past paragraphs.

    "If you have no idea what I'm referring to, then ask around. This is not a isolated incident, as I have confirmed with an informal survey of 2 people, who have their own 'buzzers.'"

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    Topic: 6) Buzzing (2 of 2), Read 29 times
    Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
    From: Rus Bowden (lowelldude@aol.com)
    Date: Tuesday, May 11, 1999 04:39 PM

    Mark,

    I think I've got this narrowed down to two words, anyway. We could call it "vocalized skimming," but that might be too general and doesn't really capture the buzzing that goes on. Or we could coin something like "buzz reading."

    Either way, your audience for these two-word phrases would have to make a mental leap to understand what you were saying, unless it was in context. To be more specific, maybe "mumblebuzz skimming" would do.


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