Loose Ends: Idle chit-chat and other time fillers

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MEEKER — Cultural mores and traditions continue to vary across different sections of the country, and the rate of one’s speech patterns are often attributed to one’s geographical origin. A rapid-fire delivery is common in the East, while a slow-as-molasses rate often typifies the southern regions. There is a western style of speaking that is a cross between the two, which can be slow, yet steady.
While the words take a while to gather together, one gets the feeling that their economic delivery is worth every word. Moving into an area with a speech pattern that identifies you as an outsider is sometimes more of a challenge than one might think.
If your speed of speaking moves along at a good clip, one state back East always seems to gets the credit. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t from the Big Apple or have only visited there on one or two occasions, New York is apparently the home of the fast talker. There is no amount of convincing to be done once this conversational complaint has been launched.
“Where’s the fire?” one elderly gent asked me one day, as I sat in his kitchen visiting with him. I was confused as I was planted at the kitchen table, having a cup of coffee and from all appearances, sitting for a spell. I think I muttered something about trying to slow down when I realized I talked too fast.
I soon learned that I had moved to a section of the country where speed when you were speaking was not required. In fact rapidity seemed to convey the feeling that this particular conversation wasn’t a top priority. Hanging out in one area of the country more than others tends to affect one’s conversational pace but the real determinant is a rural or urban upbringing, no matter where you live.
City conversations require a quick cadence in order to command attention. People in the more populated areas believe that their busy lives leave them with little time for idle chit-chat. Sometimes it seems as if one must shove together as many words as you can to insure that you keep the listener’s attention.
Growing up in a location known for its speeding conversationalists is not the only factor that determines one’s rate of speech. I was the youngest of five with an age spread of 12 years between me and my oldest sister, so I thought everyone blurted things out in rapid succession. Survival of the fastest described our family exchanges.
“What’s that?” someone was always asking me when I first moved here or they would just nod their head and look at me blankly. I didn’t hear many “excuse me, could you repeat that please?” even though they might not have understood a single word I said. Conversations took on a new dimension, as I worked at slowing down my delivery. Taking time to talk, to really have a conversation, rather than just talking at someone, became part of the daily routine. The hustle and bustle of one’s speech conveys a wrong message, as it seems to say you don’t have time for the listener, that you are rushing to get the words out, so that you can move on.