The new Windtalkers
PORTLAND, ORE. — I hope linguistic experts around the country are aware that American television is rapidly pushing forward in the development and promulgation of a unique dialect that is both compelling and confusing.
I call this new variety of verbal interaction TubeSpeak. It's most prevalent on the recent wave of dating shows that have generated high ratings with younger audiences. TubeSpeak is what happens when people string together long sentences filled with emotions but mostly devoid of content.
The latest evidence of this trend was displayed in my living room recently because certain individuals in the household could not resist the urge to watch "The Bachelor: Special Edition on ABC Family Channel." The story of Alex Michel, the bachelor, originally aired last spring when he was presented with an array of attractive women and had to narrow the field week by week in a quest to find his one true romantic partner.
The show featured a seemingly endless cavalcade of sound bites from Alex and the women that included perceptions, expectations, and explanations about each relationship from beginning to end. If this sounds like the Mother of All Yakfests, it was dwarfed by the vocal output of the special edition, a gigantic rehash of each date that included special, abundant helpings of TubeSpeak.
When Alex described how a particular relationship went south, it sounded something like this: "I was trying to get us to a place where I thought we needed to be, to find out if we were right together, but I wasn't sure she was ready to make the kind of effort it would take to get there. And even while I was moving in what I felt was a positive direction, I was also sort of keeping her at arms length the whole time, which made the process even more complicated."
Do people on dates really speak like that? I don't know, but TubeSpeak is definitely the dominant language of reality TV, a glib and articulate form of speech without substance. Most TV producers abhor pauses or hesitation, so once the cameras start rolling somebody has to start talking. The best TubeSpeakers can begin a sentence without knowing how it will end, keep going until they figure out a conclusion, and use vague terminology to give the illusion of insight.
I hope TubeSpeak doesn't have long-term harmful effects because it isn't going away. A new season of "The Bachelor" is on the way, and the popularity of these shows speaks volumes about how much the viewing public seems to enjoy watching complete strangers talk, and talk some more.
I could make a few more quips but they would be redundant, so I'll stop right here. Someone once said to me, "Your opinions are often ridiculous, but at least you know when to shut up." In this era of ongoing TubeSpeak, I can't think of a higher compliment.