I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
December 13, 2015 7:33 AM   Subscribe

 
I am already trying to conquer my one-man-show voice and now this?

Well, at least I don't suffer from poetry reading voice.
posted by sonascope at 7:44 AM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


1) Ronbledore is real.
2) I get a lot of exposure to YouTube tiy unwrapping videos these days, particularly for Shopkins, because my children are developing their own tastes and it turns out those tastes are horrible. the most common kind of voice you hear is an adult doing a hyper excited little girl voice, and boy is it irritating and possibly a little worrying.
3) Eldest seems to be moving on to Minecraft videos where everyone tries to be Stephen Merchant.
posted by Artw at 7:46 AM on December 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


Cookie Swirl C - the worst, the absolute worst. I heard this daily at one point. Perhaps we should become a "no devices" household.
posted by Artw at 7:48 AM on December 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


So it turns out the “YouTube voice” is just a variety of ways of emphasizing words

I notice this when my 8-y.-o. explains her latest YT favorite--she's a pretty good mimic, and the shifting emphasis on words really shows.

Eldest seems to be moving on to Minecraft videos where everyone tries to be Stephen Merchant. Oh, I am so sorry, Artw. After a while, my kids could make me flinch by cheerfully calling out "Hello, this is Stampy!"
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:51 AM on December 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Cookie Swirl C - the worst, the absolute worst.

Why did I click that link? I am scarred.

Seriously, parental controls. They are a thing.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:53 AM on December 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Funny, I was thinking how true this is about Adam Conover, who was posted yesterday. I find it completely condescending and unlistenable. It's so close to the way people speak to children and dogs.
posted by rock swoon has no past at 7:53 AM on December 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I always think of that as "Ze Frank" style, and to me, it's as much about the editing as the speaking style.
posted by mtVessel at 7:59 AM on December 13, 2015 [16 favorites]


Youtube also has it's own editing style. It's choppy, fast and meme-filled. The soundtrack is usually one of eight royalty free tracks available on the net.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:01 AM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Cookie Swirl C

This is my daily torment. My three year old is addicted. I swear there's some kind of ASMR going on with them.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:02 AM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I hear no difference between the "YouTube Voice" and the "Home Shopping Network voice".
posted by Devoidoid at 8:02 AM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wish I could go back to not knowing what a Shopkin is.
posted by Artw at 8:09 AM on December 13, 2015 [15 favorites]


In my practice I refer to this as the "manic phase bipolar/ADHD hyperactive type" voice... I'm careful not to schedule two of those in a row.
posted by HuronBob at 8:11 AM on December 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's just "I'm on camera/I have an audience" voice, wouldn't you say?

The "exaggerated facial gestures" thing definitely is - actors who are self-conscious of their physical presence onstage and "omigod people are looking at me and expecting me to do something" will sometimes go overboard with the gestures, because they feel all stiff and weird if they don't. I can definitely see someone staring down a camera lens getting all "omigod I have to DO SOMETHING" and exaggerating their facial expressions. Even Spaulding Gray said he did this in SWIMMING TO CAMBODIA, when he said he was reviewing some of the dailies and Sam Waterson looked all nice and normal but his own face was "this pulsing, ameboid mass" because he was exaggerating his facial expressions.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:12 AM on December 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Somebody just sent me a link to an episode of My Drunk Kitchen and I couldn't make it half-way through. I used to enjoy her videos years ago, but she has since developed her youtube voice and now I can't be bothered.

But television newscaster voice bothers me more. I made the mistake of having the local news on this morning and they were covering a Metro station closed for emergency response drills for first responders. The correspondent emotes, "If you look behind me, THAT is the BUS with the BOMB on it" (with camera zoom in on bomb squad robot) then flatly adds, "this is just a drill." Then he emotes, "And there is FIRE and SMOKE in the STATION" (with camera pan to firetrucks) then flatly adds "simulated for first responders."
posted by peeedro at 8:21 AM on December 13, 2015


> Cookie Swirl C - the worst, the absolute worst.

My god, I lasted approx 3 seconds (literally, the time displayed on the timebar when I hit "Stop"). This is worse than Barbiephonic. Somebody's doing that on purpose?
posted by ardgedee at 8:32 AM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I loved this essay, I think she pointed out a lot of subtle things about YouTube pronunciation style. I was just hoping it would talk about other aspects of YouTube diction and culture too. I'd love to know where the "Hey guys, this is Julie.." thing came from. I mean it's a natural enough way to start a video but it's so common it gets regularly parodied.

Andy Baio did a nice writeup a few years ago about YouTube culture's use of the phrase "no copyright intended", a little pseudo-legal magic spell a lot of YouTube folks are fond of using.
posted by Nelson at 8:45 AM on December 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I always think of that as "Ze Frank" style, and to me, it's as much about the editing as the speaking style.

Same. And my understanding of the timeline is that Ze did The Show and spawned a bunch of imitators, thus the ubiquitousness of that style of editing. It's just how youtube-folk do things now. Its probably morphed a bit and I'll have to check some of these videos out. I remember specifically not being able to watch a lot of these in their early days specifically because they felt like such a poor rip-off of The Show. Having such a clear set of records for a dialect(?? does this count as a dialect(?? ling 101 one awhile ago) emerging is probably pretty cool for linguists.
posted by curious nu at 8:48 AM on December 13, 2015


One of my favorite youtube video providers is the Nerdwriter, which does it a lot less, mainly because most of it is narration over outside video, without the creator on screen. It's also heavily scripted and practiced. Granted, the alternative to youtube voice for him is NPR voice, which is just as affected.

What's really funny though is that he does his Patreon sales pitch at the end, and many times he is in front of the screen, and nearly all the time it's unscripted. And because of that, the Youtube voice comes roaring through. Adding some extra irony, the video is about Marshall McLuhan's theory of "The Medium is the Message" and how it applies to Youtube. I wonder how self aware he was about his own language and inflections conforming to the medium.
posted by zabuni at 9:00 AM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Artw: "3) Eldest seems to be moving on to Minecraft videos where everyone tries to be Stephen Merchant."

My American children, devoted DanTDM fans, pronounce inventory as "IN-ven-tree," just like Dan. When I say "in-ven-TOR-y" as we do here in America, they get all huffy that I'm saying it wrong.

And the other day the four-year-old said, "Mom! I want a cookie! I know you have them in your invent'ry!" And I was like, "Dude, it's called a CABINET."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:16 AM on December 13, 2015 [33 favorites]


And the other day the four-year-old said, "Mom! I want a cookie! I know you have them in your invent'ry!" And I was like, "Dude, it's called a CABINET."

If your kids were in Rhode Island, telling them the cookies are in the cabinet is going to get you a milkshake-themed event of possibly tragic proportions.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:33 AM on December 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


For this reason I watch many Youtube videos on mute with the computer captions turned on.
posted by ethansr at 9:48 AM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wish I could go back to not knowing what a Shopkin is.

It's been a very Shopkins Hannukah here in the Trotsky household committee.

Pros: Cheap and waterproof, so good for tubby.

Cons: It's a boot with a face. How is that fun? Oh, and apparently many of these rubber tchotchkes are 'rare' according to the paper pamphlet, so there's already hoarding amongst the wee committee members.

Also, the storage box is an f-ing vending machine.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:48 AM on December 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Cons: It's a boot with a face. How is that fun?

if you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot, with a human face... forever
posted by Greg Nog at 10:03 AM on December 13, 2015 [27 favorites]


It's all products with faces. Literally a consumerism themed toy.
posted by Artw at 10:05 AM on December 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah. Ze Frank inspired the Vlogbrothers, who made it the ubiquitous standard.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:20 AM on December 13, 2015


Oh! Now explain the "I'm reading an exerpt from my own novel on NPR" voice!
posted by odinsdream at 10:26 AM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is also "elementary teacher voice."

"Middle school teacher voice" is more gravelly and dry.
posted by Peach at 10:28 AM on December 13, 2015


I'd noticed that my 13 year old nephew talks like he's on youtube. I think of it as the Pewdiepie effect.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:30 AM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Artw: "Cookie Swirl C - the worst, the absolute worst. I heard this daily at one point. Perhaps we should become a "no devices" household"

I get it now. THIS is what Lovecraft was writing about.
posted by schmod at 10:34 AM on December 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I should do a series of videos about mundane things in "Reading Soldiers' Letters on Ken Burns' The Civil War"-voice.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:50 AM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


NPR Voice? Here you go....
posted by HuronBob at 10:52 AM on December 13, 2015


> It's all products with faces. Literally a consumerism themed toy.

You have to admire the elegance of the proposition.

> Cookie Swirl C

I have the urge to chop up the audio to this and sync it with a Max Headroom video.
posted by Leon at 10:54 AM on December 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I would say that one of the reasons that YouTube vloggers speak that way, particularly if they monetize their work, is that YouTube stats measure how long people typically watch a video. It's in their best interest to keep the attention of their audiences through the entire thing - I am not sure if it has an effect on income, but it would show up in their stats.

I'm very intrigued by this - it's always fascinating to see the way that online interaction shapes language and communication.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:22 AM on December 13, 2015


Is this the new thing to hate? Is Vocal Fry off the hook?

It just sounds like enunciation to me. Maybe I don't watch enough vloggers to see it as a tic.
posted by edheil at 11:40 AM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is great.

It is a marketing pierce at your limited attention. It's the same principle those car dealers and furniture stores use on the A.M. radio where it is painful to listen to if the volume is up. It is a micro-assault. It comes from demonic magic and as Eliphas Levi used to say "a bewitching is an overture to a murder".

The people who do this have bad intentions.
posted by bukvich at 11:48 AM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


epenthesis FTMFW.

but.

I don't think this is exactly the same thing, but it seems quite analogous: my niece, who is 9 years old, sings with absolutely perfect pitch, a prodigy. but when she sings, her voice shifts to total autotune/vocaloid mode. it's almost like listening to a synthesizer - perfect but synthetic. at this point it doesn't even matter what the song is, it seems like she has simply been influenced/infected by repeated hearings of the songs she loves best, the ones she listens to most. thanks, youtube.
posted by dorian at 11:55 AM on December 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


There's an interesting effect of having no responsive audience when you're making a video that's particularly important to me, because my experimental attempts to come up with a Youtube version of my old podcast to share the new material I've been working on come up sort of muted and flat. I think that's a big factor in the Youtube voice in general, though for most, it goes to this instinct to make everything bigger and rounder and more AR-TIC-U-LATE-ED and the default of people raised in a mass media culture is to emulate the bigface and the bigvoice even when it doesn't have much to do with the actual topic. We're all a bunch of copymonkeys, which is why kids all sing those godawful runs like a tenth-generation copy of gospel filtered through American Fucking Idol.

For me, an audience brings out my best, so I've been telling my dogs about commercials, because the gravitational pull of another set of ears drags me out of the tendency to underplay or overplay a point. It's why my entirely audio pieces, too, are a little static and valiumesque, whereas if you put me in a room with other people, I'm fully animated and alive and will happily tell you my dirtiest childhood sex stories in the voice of the actual me in question.

It's always hard for a performer, though, because tics and habits and cliches come very easily.
posted by sonascope at 12:53 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Who are you, cookie lady? Show me your face - if you have a face to show!
posted by atoxyl at 1:30 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I watch a lot of $thing and I've noticed a commonality so I will call it $thing $commonality. Ok, but...

I teach adults for a living. I taught adults for a living before there was YouTube. I taught, well, not adults, but humans, before the Internet was widely popular. Before that, in university, I was in plays. Before that, in high school, I was in speech and debate (forensics, no, not the CSI kind...). I used many of these tricks, both consciously and unconsciously. If you have encountered live performance of the spoken kind in the past 50 years (or maybe more) you've seen this sort of thing. Listen to Who's on First. Watch Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy as he switches between on-stage and off-stage for the vaudeville act. Watch Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny. Think about expletives like "Key-riced" and "Shee-yit". We didn't call it YouTube voice, we called it acting...

ACTING!

Ttthhhhankhhh eyew.
posted by aureliobuendia at 1:40 PM on December 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Speed and cadence are a big part of what makes this a $thing here, I think. And it's the thing I love about YouTubes and speaks to the thing I can not stand about so much of the beloved contemporary radio work. TAL/Radiolab/et al tend to do this languid storytelling thing, with interstitial music, with leading questions, with pauses. 90% of the time on those shows I'm screamin: "GET TO THE POINT."

So much getting to the point on YouTube! It's a little counter-intuitive because there's visuals also, so maybe we'd be more into slower stuff? But I think the fact that video (usually) takes all your attention means that you're primed for faster intake of info. And the fact that you are one click or tab away from something else means they need to keep your attention from second 1.

Whatever it is, I like it.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:45 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


That was a whole lot of words to say: "youtube stars use frequent changes in pace and emphasis to hold attention."
posted by yeolcoatl at 1:52 PM on December 13, 2015


MetaFilter: my children are developing their own tastes and it turns out those tastes are horrible
posted by schmod at 2:24 PM on December 13, 2015 [20 favorites]


YouTube Voice involves a lot of exaggerated emoting and vast overuse of the word "obnoxious," for no adequately explored reason. Why have all of the other synonyms for "unpleasant in some way" vanished?

This is, for my money, still entirely preferable to American TV News Voice, which is delivered entirely in the same way as scolding a Very Bad Dog.
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:35 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


To be fair to Ms. Swirl I'm not sure she's worse than e.g. PewDiePie. But then I find very few things to be.
posted by atoxyl at 3:07 PM on December 13, 2015


Fan-theory: Caillou grows up to be a Vlogger.
posted by schmod at 3:10 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I like it. While I can tolerate NPR slow speech in situations where reading is not an option, such as while walking or riding a bike, when I'm in a position to view a screen it's generally agony listening to people...slowly...discussing...a...subject. Give me a transcript or an article on the same topic that I can briskly read without feeling like I'm listening to paint dry. But with YouTube voice, if the subject interests me, I can actually make it through a whole video without getting antsy.
posted by Bugbread at 3:43 PM on December 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure Alton Brown was delivering information in this manner before YouTube even existed, and I'm sure he didn't invent it.
posted by davejh at 4:12 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is a lot of beanplating that forgets one major factor:

A lot of these YouTubers know each other and work together.

John and Hank Green spearhead a lot of what we now know as "YouTuber culture" - yes, they were heavily influenced by Ze Frank and cite him a lot, but they were also deeply influential themselves mainly due to their sheer output of videos. That translated into them creating a lot of platforms for YouTube culture - the Project for Awesome fundraiser that just happened, VidCon, now NerdCon stories, the whole DFTBA brand, and so on. And whenever there's a new hot-stuff YouTuber they pull them into their fold.

Many of the people on that list have worked with each other, and often have a lot of interaction with John and Hank. If they haven't worked with John and Hank, they want to be - and the YouTuber Style spreads on. So it makes sense that they sound like each other.

I noticed this with P4A this weekend - it was a lot easier to get your video featured if you fit the YouTuber culture speech & video style. Mine didn't, and despite a LOT of efforts plus other people supporting me my video didn't get featured anyway. I also noticed a lot of people who made pretty good videos, but again because they aren't YouTuber Culture-seeming they kinda got ignored by everyone.

It's self-reinforcing: want to be part of YouTube culture, want to be recognized as a YouTuber, want to reach the same level of fame? Follow this template.
posted by divabat at 4:15 PM on December 13, 2015


Literally every single video linked in this article is insufferable to me. I would literally (no, pedants, I mean literally) rather listen to fingernails on a chalkboard than any of these people, and the thought of making a wrong turn in life and potentially finding myself in a room with one or more of them is filling me with a degree of dread normally reserved for the most repress-worthy moments of the grimmest, bleakest nightmares.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:41 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I always kind of sigh a bit when something about YouTube shows up on Metafilter because, on one hand, I'm genuinely interested in what smart people have to say about almost anything but at the same time there's the usual get-off-my-lawn subtext here of disliking social media and podcasts and online video and a lot of other things that are important to me these days.

Anyway, I'll just offer that "YouTube voice" sounds perfectly natural to me as a style of presentation appropriate to the medium but "TV news announcer voice" sounds horrific and grating with the roller coaster like swooping and rising and diving... tone and... random pauses... for emphasis. Or something. They literally sound to me like they're speaking to infants. But I'm aware that it's done deliberately because it apparently works on the target audience.

In summary, presentation style is a land of contrasts.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 6:04 PM on December 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


(Just to be clear, I love YouTube but hate "personalities")
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:12 PM on December 13, 2015


It's the editing style that's de rigeur on YouTube that drives me nuts. Like, there'll be an abrupt cut after every sentence—sometimes after every phrase—everything is stitched together in this bubbly rapid-fire ADHD barrage—it bears no resemblance to natural speech!—everything is emphasized and there are no pauses for breath—no variations in cadence to give space around anything.

Partly this happens because it's easier to edit individual sentences together than to get single good take, but mostly it seems to be done for effect. I hate it.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:26 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


escape from the potato planet: "It's the editing style that's de rigeur on YouTube that drives me nuts. Like, there'll be an abrupt cut after every sentence—sometimes after every phrase—everything is stitched together in this bubbly rapid-fire ADHD barrage—it bears no resemblance to natural speech!"

This is my absolutely favorite thing about the YouTube editing style! I first saw it in J Smooth's How to Tell Someone They Sound Racist, and it was a revelation. I think it was the first video I saw of someone just talking straight to the camera where I didn't immediately think "Can't I just read the transcript?" Not only did I not have to listen to every "uh" and "uhm" and "yeah", I didn't have to listen to every little gap as they arranged their thoughts or took a breath. Listening at the speed of reading (or thereabouts).
posted by Bugbread at 7:42 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Jay Smooth's voice is the opposite of this crap. He's erudite and conversational. But then, he also has thought a lot about what he is talking about, and has something to say. Could that be the difference? My column
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:50 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Potomac Avenue: "Jay Smooth's voice is the opposite of this crap. He's erudite and conversational. But then, he also has thought a lot about what he is talking about, and has something to say. Could that be the difference?"

It's gotta be. Go back and watch the How To Tell Someone They Sound Racist video again with fresh eyes. Here's the first minute of that video:

"Race. The final frontier.<CUT>
No matter what channel you watch, no matter what feed you aggregate, it seems like everybody everywhere is talking about race right now.<CUT>
And when everybody everywhere is talking about race that means that sooner or later you're gonna have to tell somebody that they said something that sounds racist.<CUT>
So you need to be ready and have a plan in place for how to approach the inevitable 'that sounded racist' conversation.<CUT>
And I'm going to tell you how to do that.<CUT>
The most important thing<CUT>
that you've got to do<CUT>
is remember the difference<CUT>
between the 'what they did' conversation<CUT>
and the 'what they are' conversation.<CUT>
Those are two totally different conversations and you need to make sure that you pick the right one.<CUT>
The 'what you did' conversation focuses strictly on the person's words and actions and explaining why what they did and what they said was unacceptable.<CUT>
This is also known as the<CUT>
'that thing you said' was racist conversation.<CUT>
And that's the conversation you want to have.<CUT>
The 'what they are' conversation on the other hand takes things one step further and uses what they did and what they said to draw conclusions about what kind of person they are.<CUT>"

The only time he has two sentences without a cut between them is "Race. The final frontier." The rest of the time he cuts after every sentence, and sometimes several times within the same sentence. So I'm guessing there's something else about the videos you dislike that is drawing your attention to the habit and annoying you, while with videos you like the same habit doesn't stand out as much and annoy? I know that happens to me with verbal tics, where when a professor I disliked said "Uh" it would drive me crazy every time, while when a professor I liked said "Uh" I'd almost never notice it.
posted by Bugbread at 8:24 PM on December 13, 2015


Oh, wait, never mind, didn't realize that you (Potomac Avenue) were not the person who brought up the "cut after every sentence" thing (escape from the potato planet).

So...uh...go ahead<CUT>
and, um, disregard that.
posted by Bugbread at 8:26 PM on December 13, 2015


I am sure Jay Smooth has lots of wonderful things to say but I literally cannot watch him because of all the jump cuts (and lots of other people too). Take a breath! I need a second to process what you just said before you jump to the next thought.
posted by desjardins at 8:59 PM on December 13, 2015


Some people [CUT]
are fast listeners [CUT]
Others, um, uh, are, uh, not...So...Fast.

[CUT]
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:09 PM on December 13, 2015


There's a lot to be said about knowing your audience can pause and rewind, in fact maybe expecting them to.
posted by odinsdream at 9:57 PM on December 13, 2015


Partly this happens because it's easier to edit individual sentences together than to get single good take, but mostly it seems to be done for effect. I hate it.

I wonder how much of that actually has to do with video/vlog being an inefficient way to convey information. It takes a really long time to say something, so your 5 minute video at a "normal pace" would be a 15 minute video, and your audience isn't going to sit there for 15 minutes to receive 5 minutes of content. Also it's a style that easily interfaces with visual gags and edited in content, which is one of the primary attractors of the medium.
posted by mayonnaises at 8:20 AM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Jay Smooth works as a radio dj, doesn't he? That background going to train him to be easier on the ears that most on Youtube.
posted by riruro at 1:51 PM on December 14, 2015


YouTube voice goes hand in hand with YouTube mouth. http://youtubemouth.tumblr.com
posted by OwlBoy at 1:57 PM on December 14, 2015


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