66. Speak Crisply and Eliminate Mumbling

Why can’t the English learn to speak?

—“My Fair Lady,” Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner

Be Your Own Henry Higgins

How often have you had to ask someone to repeat what they just said? If you’re like most people, probably quite often. Putting the shoe on the other foot, how often have you been asked to repeat what you’ve just said? If you’re like most people, probably quite often.

This all-too-frequent social exchange is not due to a decline of the auditory capacity of our population; the fault, Dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves. Mumbling has become chronic in conversation, in the theater, and in films. The New York Times described a new cinema genre called “Mumblecore,” characterized by “low-key ...

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