I’m just back from a few days in the Okanagan having spent far too much of my travel time trying to understand what muffled public address voices were pronouncing in airports and in flight.
As a world traveler I have encountered only one public address voice I could hear clearly and understand. That was (and I hope it lives on) the voice intoning train arrivals and departures in the British Railway Station at York in northern England.
The voice, usually female, is crisp and clear as it announces where a train is arriving from or departing to and the all-important number of the platform at which those events will take place. As for the balance of my worldly travels, all the public address announcers I have struggled to comprehend have had muffled voices or have spoken at staccato high speed via equipment long past its best before date.
The worst electronic voices are those commanding our attention just before and after takeoff. They are attempting to tell us how to fasten our seats belts, where emergency doors are located and, should we be flying over water, how to wear a floatation jacket with whistle attached.
We get the message only because a flight attendant is providing a visual demonstration up front and we have been able, with great concentration, to catch the odd word in the recorded script accompanying the mime performance.
Amazing really. Brilliant engineers and visionary architects design wondrous machines to move us through the air, and bright comfortable airports in which we can wait and then they subject us to muffled voices announcing flight numbers that are lost in the noisy clutter. In 2016 airport acoustics are not the priority they should be.
But maybe it isn’t the acoustics; maybe it’s just that the people making this noise have never been taught the basic lessons of public speaking – with or without a microphone – the first of which should be: “Once more speak clearly if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.”
It’s not a new subject for me. At least once a year I lament the fact that local radio and television announcers speak so rapidly that words merge, sentences become non-existent and any sense of what they may have been striving to convey is lost in the rapid fire jumble.
There was a time when CBC newscasts were models of diction and set high standards for other broadcasters to follow. But no longer. Since “rap” became an acceptable form of communication it seems to be infiltrating news broadcasts with even the venerable BBC teetering on the edge of ever-faster word delivery.
I know that in broadcasting time is money. I also know that broadcast words heard but spoken too quickly to be understood are a waste of both time and money – and a disservice to listeners or viewers.
For now, I have one final complaint about broadcast diction: Why do TV sports announcers, the play-by-play people, have to shout every other sentence and reach a screaming crescendo when a goal is scored or a good tackle is made?
Do they think we can’t appreciate what we see, that we need to be told to be excited by athletic skills and triumphs or disasters? Do they not understand that the microphone in front of them is designed to carry their voice from wherever it is to wherever I’m listening at an adequate volume?
On their massacred diction and delivery of the English language I have no comment.