Skip to main content

Christopher Hitchens, and Secret Superpowers of Stammerers

I'm a bit ashamed to say that prior to Christopher Hitchens' death, I don't think I had seen any of his interviews. I started YouTubing around the other day, and I was amazed at the videos I found. Regardless of whether you agree with his beliefs, it's clear that he was an amazingly vibrant intellectual mind and an incredibly skilled debater.

So I was also surprised to discover shortly into the first video that Christopher Hitchens was a stutterer!

As a stutterer myself, I possess the strange ability to spot other stutterers that non-stutterers usually can't. I remember once during university, a very prominent politician came to give a talk, and it was clear in her opening remarks that she was a "covert stammerer" (i.e., pauses and substitutes words, but doesn't repeat syllables). I asked my friends afterwards if they noticed anything strange about her speech, and no one did. I told them she was a stutterer, and they were quite surprised.

In any case, since Christopher Hitchens was also one of the most fearsome debating powers in the world, I questioned my secret superpower, and decided to leave it to the Google. A quick search for "Christopher Hitchens stutterer" leads to a New Yorker profile that mentions how he used to have a "severe stutter", but overcame it via massive amounts of public speaking and debating. "Overcame" is somewhat of a misnomer here, as it never really went away, but needless to say, he was an unbelievably skilled speaker.

Which I suppose just goes to show you that communication involves far more than mere fluency of speech rhythm.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why Korean Is Hard For Native English Speakers

A couple of days ago, as an experiment, I wrote my first blog post ever in a non-English language . It was an attempt to explain some of the reasons that Korean is hard to learn for native English speakers, so I figured I might as well try to write it in Korean. Those of you who actually read Korean can see how awkward the attempt was =). In any case, the post came from an email conversation I had with The Korean from  Ask a Korean , a fantastically well-written blog about all things Korea from the perspective of a Korean who moved to the United States during high school. Since I tend to geek out on language things, I figured I might as well post part of that conversation. An edited version follows. --------- Out of the languages that I've attempted to learn so far, Korean has been the hardest. I've done a lot of meta thinking about learning Korean, and I think there are a number of reasons it's difficult for non-Koreans (and especially Westerners) to learn: 1) Obvi

Stuttering in Korea

I had given up on English. It's my native language, but I figured after 30 some-odd years of disfluent speech, it was time to try something else. So I signed up for language classes in Korean, rationalizing that if I was going to try to teach myself how to speak, I might as well learn a new language along the way. This might seem completely insane, but when the prevailing theme of your conscious thoughts for multiple decades is some variant of "Why can't I say what I want to say?", you come up with lots of crazy ideas. For background, I've been a person who stutters for my entire life. I wrote about it on this blog a few years ago, so I think it's time for a followup. I've learned a lot since then, about myself and about stuttering, but in this post I simply want to give some insight into what it's actually like to stutter, and how my speech has changed over time. After the last stuttering post, the predominant reaction I got from friends was ei

Is It Worth It To Learn Korean?

Learning Korean as a non-Asian foreigner is an exercise in masochism. Note that I specify "non-Asian". Why does that make a difference? Simply because Koreans possess a deeply-ingrained belief that non-Asians are incapable of speaking Korean. The self-fulfilling prophecy of it is that since Koreans expect you to be incapable of speaking Korean, due to this mental block, they are likely to not understand you regardless of your proficiency level. Additionally, they won't respond to you with normal Korean like they would respond to an Asian person, because they assume you couldn't possibly understand. You will rarely ever have an opportunity to hear natural Korean, because Koreans simply won't speak it with you unless 1) they are open-minded and awesome (meaning they have probably lived abroad - thank you to all of you), or 2) they have known you long enough that they've gotten past the odd sight of a foreigner speaking Korean. In short, nearly every time you o