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Which States Have the Fastest Talkers?

Next time you hear, “this call may be recorded,” an analytics firm could be analyzing every word

(Frank and Helena/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Pop, soda, or soft drink? Your choice of words can reveal a lot about where you come from. But a new study shows that your speed and cadence of words can also be used to tell from whence you hail, reports Megan Garber for The Atlantic.

The analytics firm Marchex analyzed more than four million recorded calls—the "this call may be recorded" type of calls—that took place between 2013 and 2015 for rate of speech, word density, silences and hold. They were able to rank all 50 states on the basis of the speed of their residents' speaking.

The people that deliver the speediest soliloquies live in Oregon and the slowest speakers from Mississippians, the firm reports

"In some sense, Marchex’s findings hew to cultural stereotypes," Garber writes. "The fast-talkers are concentrated in the North; the slow-talkers are concentrated in the South."

The top five fastest speaking states (in order) are Oregon, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Kansas and Iowa. The states with slow speakers are  North Carolina, Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana and Mississippi comes in as the slowest of all.

The difference isn't huge, but it is noticeable: Marchex determined that for every five words uttered by a person in a slow talking state, a person in a fast talking one can get out six.

Fastest talkers
(Marchex)

But the data is more nuanced than just fast and slow talking. Marchex also looked for the wordiest speakers—those who use the most words during the call—regardless of how quickly those words spilled out from their lips. The wordiest states include New York, California, New Jersey, Nevada and Maryland. 

The most laconic speakers live in Oklahoma, Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. "A New Yorker will use 62% more words than someone from Iowa to have the same conversation with a business, according to our data," John Busby notes in a Marchex blog post.

Taken together, the cultural differences come into even more focus. Minnesotans might speak quickly, but they are relatively parsimonious with their speech. Some of the slower talking states—Texas, New Mexico and Virginia, for example—are actually quite wordy, "suggesting a premium on connection over efficiency," writes Graber. 

Marchex conducted the analysis to help call centers keep their customers happier, but in the process, the firm uncovered some interesting patterns. So at the next party, listen closely to how fast your fellows chat and see if you can guess from where your conversation partner hails.

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