The Gay Accent

Why do Gay People speak with this lispy accent? Is this something all homosexuals get together and practice?
One of my uncles announced he was gay and the next year when I saw him he was talking with the gay accent, did he take some kind of gay voice lessons…of course I am just kidding but I really want to know about this “Gay Accent” thing. One of my brothers (not the one failing algebra) talks like this too so I am just waiting on his big announcement at Thanksgiving or some other time when the whole family is together so my Dad can flip out and get his blood pressure all high.
Thanx in advance for the responses.

How do you know the people who speak with a lispy accent are all gay? How do you know there aren’t gay people in the world who do not speak with an accent?

To say either of those cases are true is to engage in stereotyping. However, this has been discussed before. In fact, the Master himself answered this one as well.

Insert a few instances of the word ‘some’ in the OP and it becomes a valid question, IMO.

Wow… that is the single most useless SD column I’ve ever read. After a dozen paragraphs of “this question is extremely offensive,” “it’s none of your business” and “there is NO SUCH THING as a gay lisp” he gives no actual answer except some “gay ghetto” nonsesnse.

Damn, Cecil, do some research instead of just asking some newsgroup to crank out opinions.

I’m a gay man, and I don’t lisp. A close friend of mine is an extremely effeminate heterosexual man, and he lisps.

Your assumption that “Gay People” all lisp is flawed. Just because someone lisps does not mean s/he is gay, nor is gayness an indicator for lisping.



FWIW, the Italian “gay accent” sounds exactly like the english “gay accent”.

Also, they can search the archives.

I suggest they use that big empty blue space in the top right corner to put a column search.

Interesting. Most people usually describe my accent simply as “Canadian”.

How exactly should he have researched this?

Isn’t it obvious? Gay people speak like they do because they are (or are trying to be) more emotive than straight males.

The standard male drawl wherever you are contains the scope for expressing all the emotion of a dessicated prune.

This is the standard male defensive thing, emotions are a weakness so all expression has to be controlled including tone in the voice which can even betray that you’re happy :o!

So gay guys (with the voices) let the macho control go and allow their natural tonal range to occur. Some however seem to take it a bit too far and thats why you get the outrageously camp voices you sometimes hear.

Of course some people will lisp for other reasons, but its Gay lispers we’re talking about right?

Whats most amusing is that you actually get grown-up straight guys who think they can disguise their emotions. Heh.

Gay people especially in the past have been a somewhat closely knit, and to a degree socially seperated group. As such they tend to develop their own terms, and even ways of pronouncing certain terms (there was a word in sociology that described this, but I cannot recall what it is now). In the same way that many American Blacks, and those Whites who are “Hip-Hop” enthusiasists often develop a distinct style of speech. When people “out” themselves as gay they may end up spending more time around other gays. An analogy when I was younger I spent a Summer in Tenn., when I came back to Indiana my friends wanted to know why I was talking like a “hick” . I suspect that as Gays become more mainstream that any unique “sound” will diminish, unless that is it becomes “cool” to sound like gays (I think that National TV will eventually do the same for regional accents) Here is a short article from the Economist that addresses the issue:

Sounding gay
Gay speech patterns
[Originally published in the Economist, 1995 |
Posted here 2001.05.07]

At first blush, schoolyard taunts might not seem a fruitful source of truisms about the human condition, but the epithet “it takes one to know one” does have some basis in reality, at least for gays and lesbians, who are often attuned to the special somethings that subtly and covertly distinguish gay from straight. In gay vernacular, the ability to identify who is gay and who isn’t is termed gay radar, or gaydar. But exactly which signals does gaydar pick up? And what differentiates the signals given off by gays and straights?

The voice offers a few clues. Though popular stereotype holds that gay men lisp, lisping is quite rare and is often evidence of a diagnosable speech impediment. The most famous lisper alive today, boxer and convicted rapist Mike Tyson, hardly fits into the “gay” category. But the lisping stereotype is not altogether removed from reality: In fact, some North American gay males do pronounce sibilants (s, z, sh, and the like) in a distinctive way – by adding more sibilation, hissing, or stridency, a phenomenon phonologists call assibilation.

Here, of course, the dangers of stereotypes become apparent. Gay men are not the only group whose members sometimes speak with assibilation. A habit of assibilating “stops” like t and d is a prominent feature of Quebec French, for example, and the source of much derision from national French speakers. A word like térébentine (“turpentine”) in certain Quebec French dialects is pronounced something like tsérébentsine. Many New Yorkers of all persuasions, and some American Jews, also assibilate in ways similar to Quebec French or stereotypical gay speech. Moreover, gay men who speak with what a North American newsreader would consider an “accent” – such as British, Australian, or even Texan gays – rarely assibilate at all. Nailing down just what makes a gay voice gay is as vague and slippery as human sexuality itself.

That’s not to say the problem hasn’t been studied. In one experiment, Rudolf Gaudio, an openly-gay linguistics student at Stanford University, asked four gay and four straight men to read two passages into a tape recorder. The first text was a dry excerpt from an accounting volume, the second a dramatic passage from Harvey Fierstein’s play about gay life, Torch Song Trilogy. A group of 13 subjects of both sexes listened to selected snippets of those recorded passages and ranked each one according to a “semantic differential” technique, i.e., on a seven-position scale between opposite terms: straight and gay, effeminate and masculine, reserved and emotional, affected and ordinary.

As Gaudio noted, “listeners’ guesses about speakers’ sexual orientation were largely accurate: with ‘straight’ at the left pole of the continuum and ‘gay’ at the right pole, all the straight speakers rated on the ‘straight’ side, and all the gay speakers were to their right (i.e., sounded ‘more gay’).” That pattern held true for both the accounting and dramatic passages.

Gaudio’s research was not concerned with gaydar per se; rather, his interest was in correlating pitch measurements with the listeners’ ratings. Oddly, though, in a range of pitch measurements taken from the actual sound waves of the four gay and four straight men’s voices, there was no significant correlation with the listeners’ judgements. The experiment, then, could provide no quantifiable reason why the listeners’ perceptions about gay and straight speakers were correct.

Gaudio explains this anomaly by noting that his experiment considered only a narrow range of measurements; gay and straight men’s speech might well differ according to criteria Gaudio did not measure. A leading openly-gay linguist, Arnold Zwicky of Ohio State University, echoes that interpretation and adds that gay men’s speech can differ from straight in a number of ways; listeners might pick up on only one or some combination of those factors – and not necessarily the ones Gaudio measured. Still, the likelihood of further research in this area, according to Gaudio and Zwicky, is remote due to the political touchiness of studying gay speech.

I sing in a chorus comprised of almost 100 gay men, and I can think of exactly **one **guy with a lisp. He’s also, by the way, one of the best singers.

“gay persona”. In addition, I think that so called “gay mannorisms” have become less common and distinct as gays have become more mainstream. To me this subject is less about gays than humans desires to seperate themselves as unique individuals or groups.

I lisp. Occasionally. Want to know what it sounds like?

a WHISTLE. Yes, a whistle. Occasionally my esses come out as a distinct whistle. It’s rad.
(i am gay by the way).

Oh and i don’t lisp on a flamer way, i simply imitate either a 20 something black woman, or a valley girl, depending on mood.

I think we’re getting confused by terminology here; when people ask this question, they aren’t talking about a lisp of the Daffy Duck variety (where ‘s’ comes out as ‘th’), which anyone can have; they are talking about a set of inflections and mannerisms that, together, project an aura of ‘camp’ - these include a slight lisp, but to describe the whole thing as a lisp is misleading.

Yes, I’ve met some people who sounded camp but were, as far as it is possible to determine, heterosexual, but again, that isn’t the question, because the general impression that many people get is that people who are openly gay seem often to have a set of mannerisms that ‘sound’ gay, with a correlation that seems to point to something more than mere cooincidence. ‘Why?’ is a perfectly valid question, even if the answer turns out to be something like selective bias.

As I said in an earlier thread:
A classmate of mine used to have speech and behavior patterns similar to a typical male of my socio-economic background. Then he spent several years living in New York, working in the theater. When he came to the class reunion, he lisped and minced, and generally conformed to the stereotype.

When I was in college, I noticed that many of the art majors and theater majors seemed to talk like Truman Capote, whether they were gay or staight.

So, in my opinion, it is a learned behavior. If all of your friends and coworkers talk like John Wayne, you may pick up a drawl. If all of your friends and coworkers talk like Truman Capote, you may pick up a lisp.