“Life is short. Talk fast,” Gilmore Girls advises. It may well be a good tip: There are some distinct advantages to being a motormouth, among them conversational efficiency and—some research suggests—a general perception that fast-talkers are smarter than their slower-speeched peers. So, sure, if you count yourself among the world’s fast-talkers, that could be a sign of your intelligence. Or of your impatience. Or of nothing at all.
Or! It could be a sign that you’re from Oregon.
Yes. Oregon. The Beaver State, according to a new analysis of consumer phone calls—placed to businesses across the country, and recorded anonymously—is home to the Lorelai Gilmore-iest, Jackie Chiles-iest speakers in the nation. The second-fastest talkers? They’re in Minnesota. The third? In Massachusetts.
The slowest talkers, for their part, can be found in the South: in South Carolina, Louisiana, and—the most laconically languaged state of them all—Mississippi.
To arrive at those state-by-state breakdowns, the analytics firm Marchex used what it calls Call DNA technology—software that analyzes call recordings to determine things like rate of speech, density of speech, hold times, and silences—on a set of calls recorded between 2013 and 2015. (These are the recordings that result when a pleasant robo-voice informs you that “this call may be recorded.” Marchex’s analysis includes more than 4 million such calls.)
The full ranking of states, from the fastest-talking to the slowest:
8. South Dakota
9. New Hampshire
12. North Dakota
15. Rhode Island
19. New Jersey
20. West Virginia
38. New York
45. New Mexico
46. North Carolina
48. South Carolina
In some sense, Marchex’s findings hew to cultural stereotypes. The fast-talkers are concentrated in the North; the slow-talkers are concentrated in the South. (Speed-speech-y Florida is an outlier whose fast-talking ways can likely be explained by both the state’s high concentration of Spanish speakers and the fact that many of its residents are transplants from faster-talking states.) Here, in other words, is a state’s culture directly affecting that most intimate of things: the way people speak. It’s all very Geography of Time.
But speedy speech doesn’t necessarily equate to dense speech. Marchex also used its dataset to analyze the wordiest speakers, state by state—the callers who, regardless of their tempo, used the most words during their interactions with customer service agents.
That breakdown looked like this:
The variation here is significant. What the word-density differences amount to, Marchex notes, is that, for example, “a New Yorker will use 62 percent more words than someone from Iowa to have the same conversation with a business, according to our data.” And, again, the linguistic variations hint at cultural ones. Some of the slower-talking states (Texas, New Mexico, Virginia, etc.) are also some of the wordier, suggesting a premium on connection over efficiency. Some of the fastest-talking states (Idaho, Wyoming, New Hampshire) are also some of the least talkative, suggesting the get-down-to-business mentality commonly associated with those states.
And what of that most communicative form of language—silence? Marchex also considered the holding patterns of the calls it analyzed, noting whether callers who were put on hold during their interactions with businesses hung up or hung on.
The states in green, below, are the ones whose residents were most likely to hang up after being put on hold. The states in pink are the ones whose residents stuck around until their calls resumed.
It’s not so much a North-South divide as it is, very roughly, a regional one: The most impatient people here are congregated within the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic, and the upper Midwest. And the most patient can be found in the Midwest and the South. Perhaps, as well, it’s not surprising that Ohio would distinguish itself, in this analysis, for its impatience; a previous Marchex study found that the Buckeye State carries the dubious distinction of being the most profanity-prone of these United States.
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