18 September 2012

Does Mitt Romney's mouth move faster than his brain?

I've not studied Mitt Romney's style of speaking in much detail, but there may be a clue in his latest gaffe (above) as to why I'd felt there was something a bit odd about him.

It's the sheer speed at which he speaks.

Speeches by effective public speakers are delivered at about 120 words per minute, which is much slower than the 180 words per minute found in conversations between native speakers of English (see my books).

But in the sequence that got him into so much trouble, Mr Romney manages about 200 words per minute - i.e. 20 words per minute quicker than conversation.

Apart from the fact that this is abnormally fast for a conversation (let alone a speech) it raises two intriguing quetions:

  1. Is he speaking too quickly for his brain to be able to produce carefully considered and/or 'elegantly stated' opinions?
  2. How, in American culture, is 'fast-speaking' likely to be regarded by the wider public?

For what it's worth, to my British ears, 'fast-speaking' tends to have mainly negative connotations...