Stuttering and sincerity


Most people seemed to like Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention on September 4. But some pundits and commentators pointed out a habit she had of stuttering on certain phrases. While some people called her out for being "fake", others thought it enhanced her speech by making her seem humble and honest. It was a genuine "part of her rhetorical style", and had been "practiced" .

A writer on the online gossip/news site Gawker, Hamilton Nolan, referred to it as a “studied stutter” to “build sincerity”. This prompted a debate in the comments section as to whether it was natural, from nervousness, whether it was endearing or irritating.

Many a stutterer who has got the side-eye after simply telling someone their name, or been treated like a potential terrorist at airports and border crossings, might find the idea that stuttering engenders trust rather amusing. During Michelle Obama's speech, it did seem like she had selected certain phrases to stutter on for emphasis, or perhaps she was just waiting until the crowd stopped cheering at what she had said previously, and filling in the gaps with repetitions instead of silences. In any case, it is certainly the luxury of a non-stutterer to be able to use stuttering for "effect".



Globe and Mail

Media Bistro

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