For NPR, This is Daniel Schorr ... AGGGGH! *leaps for dial*
August 24, 2009 5:59 PM   Subscribe

Whenever I listen to National Public Radio, I occasionally come across a news segment or op-ed by Daniel Schorr (he can be listened to here, and here's his Wikipedia article). I don't understand why, but his voice drives me up one wall and down the other. Why?

The man has a voice for newspaper — so much so that I literally leap for the off switch or 'Next' button — and I'm not usually sensitive to such things. It's not him being an elderly man — it's something unique to his voice in particular that drives me nuts, but I can't quite figure out what quality it is. I know I'm not alone, though, as I've seen other comments on his voice. Anyone know what quality his voice has that drives so many (and me) nuts? And did it derive from something in his past development (i.e., stroke, etc.) or is it just a natural quality?

(And I'm definitely not belittling the man's achievements – which are many and impressive. Just trying to figure out what the auditory quality of his voice is that drives me up the wall – much as scientists have tried to figure out the auditory reasons behind the fingernails on chalkboard thing.)
posted by WCityMike to Grab Bag (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I just listened to him for the first time. He sounds sorta like a cartoon character (Daffy Duck?), a slobbery sound like his mouth is made of rubber. I'm sure someone into phonics could explain what this sound is, but yeah, it'd drive me up the wall if I had to listen to it for more than a few minutes too.
posted by wackybrit at 6:03 PM on August 24, 2009

He draws out some vowel blends slightly longer than necessary. It's annoying. "IIIIII'm Daaaniel Shoooor..."
posted by dzaz at 6:08 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would describe the sound as involving the jowls. Jowly.

[Now just be thankful you don't have to endure Diane Rheem or Kojo-freaking-Naaaaaamdi for several hours a day. Talk about speech talent made for newspaper!]
posted by garfy3 at 6:08 PM on August 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

Funny... I've always especially enjoyed listening to him. You're right - there's something very distinctive about the way he speaks, something that always catches my attention - and I've never been able to pinpoint it either. Huh. Sorry I haven't got any insights...
posted by Cygnet at 6:12 PM on August 24, 2009

Haha - I *also* enjoy listening to Diane Rheem. Now THAT'S a distinctive voice. I guess I'm the village weirdo!
posted by Cygnet at 6:13 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Not knowing you, I'm going to go with his very subtle method of pronouncing the letter 'R' when it does not occur at the end of a sentence or in his own name. He has a very similar speech pattern to Mayor Thomas Menino in Boston (minus the malapropisms, and add significant speech therapy). He makes a deliberate effort to pronounce every syllable, but listen for a hard 'R' and you will be hard pressed to hear it clearly.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:16 PM on August 24, 2009

Sometimes things just bug us for reasons we can't explain. I have a nearly gut-level negative reaction to the actor Robby Benson, for instance -- but if you asked me to explain why, I'd just hem and haw and flail and then throw up my hands and say, "I don't know, he just does!"

Sometimes some things or people just bug us.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:18 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've always assumed it was that his dentures were fitted poorly - I can't listen to him for this reason.
posted by tristeza at 6:23 PM on August 24, 2009

For me it's his "s"; very harsh and drawn out. Almost like he makes them with his tongue against the front of his teeth instead of at the roof of his mouth.

Poor guy, I hope he doesn't read metafilter.
posted by rmtravis at 6:36 PM on August 24, 2009

I've always attributed his voice to the infirmities of his age. I'm sure that a speech pathologist could say exactly how and why.
posted by mrmojoflying at 6:36 PM on August 24, 2009

Hmm. He sounds loose and flat to these Canadian ears. For example, "before" sounds like "be-foe". He may have once had an Elmer Fudd-like impediment that he's largely corrected, but the effort comes through along with the trace of slack enunciation.

(On preview: Nanukthedog made pretty much the same point.)
posted by maudlin at 6:37 PM on August 24, 2009

I agree with garfy3, "jowly" is a great way to describe his voice.

It's low and nasal, with a slight lisp and sort of slobbery-ness. Nasal voices always make me feel uncomfortable (I think because I associate it with having a cold or some kind of breathing issue, and I feel like the person speaking must be uncomfortable, even if that's their regular voice).
posted by LolaGeek at 6:43 PM on August 24, 2009

Haha, wow, I'd never heard him before but now I don't like his voice either! He does sound "jowly". I feel like he's sticking out his jaw and he has some food or something in his mouth.
posted by losvedir at 6:49 PM on August 24, 2009

Back when Bob Edwards was on NPR, I always noticed that his voice is very poorly suited to radio. It is amazing that he has lasted as long as he has in that medium. (He is still heard on XM Public Radio.)

A good radio personality has a noticeably crisp speech pattern that is readily understood by the listener. Bob Edwards has a much more conversational tone, which would seem at first to fit with his preference for on-air interviews, but which tends to find his voice fading off at the end of sentences and phrases, and which leads to some muffled syllables in between.

Can't say that there is anything about Schorr that I have noticed. The added "R" at the end or in the middle of certain words may be the intrusive R.
posted by megatherium at 6:53 PM on August 24, 2009

He makes a point and stridently reiterates it in addition to his peculiar voice.
posted by effluvia at 6:54 PM on August 24, 2009

"Slobbery-ness" is the word, indeed.
posted by not that girl at 7:00 PM on August 24, 2009

I always thought it sounded like he was talking through a mouth full of hot oatmeal.
posted by HopperFan at 7:11 PM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've always chalked his voice to him being 83 years old. Do we have examples of audio when he was much, much younger to see if he always sounded like this?
posted by mmascolino at 7:22 PM on August 24, 2009

You mean 93 years old next week? As I tease my wife, "you hate him because you hate the sound of old people on the radio." Don't get me started on why she hates Diane Rheem.
posted by mrmojoflying at 7:25 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

mmascolino: "Do we have examples of audio when he was much, much younger to see if he always sounded like this?"

Well, according to Wikipedia, supposedly in the '70s he was the first to read aloud Nixon's Enemies List -- and was surprised to find himself on there. I'd not be surprised to learn there's audio for that.
posted by WCityMike at 7:35 PM on August 24, 2009

Here's him in '82. Listening to him here doesn't drive me up the wall, and what's different is that here, he seems much more crisp. So I think what others suggested – the jowliness, the slobberiness – is what causes my hackles to rise.
posted by WCityMike at 7:48 PM on August 24, 2009

He sounds "moist," which is a problem I'd noticed in some people after listening to NPR for the past year. I didn't quite place the name with the voice until hearing that audio clip, but that "slobberiness" kinda comes and goes, so it's not quite that bad to me. I think it's a combo of that and an Elmer Fudd-ish quality.

The one NPR personality that drives me up the wall though is Michele Norris, also on All Things Considered, and I easily could've made my own post about her. It's her combination of that moist sound, along with her husky feminine voice, that I just can't stand. Oddly enough, I haven't heard her on the show in a while.

I think it's that "NPR sound" that really highlights the unfortunate moist-ness of certain voices. One article that might be of interest regarding NPR's unique acoustic quality (especially if you've wondered why their "on location" reports sound so crisp) can be found here, and there's this older MeFI thread.

But as David Letterman once said about Michael McDonald, if I had a voice like Robert Siegel, "everyone could just kiss my ass."
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 8:26 PM on August 24, 2009

He's getting old. If you grew up on him, as I did, it might not bother you as much- paying more attention to how he sounds rather than the fact it is Daniel Schorr, a favorite 'uncle' of sorts on the radio, with sage words and wisdom, I do find his voice a little annoying. But it is a symptom of aging. I guess for those of us who have listened to him for a long time, we don't notice the change as much.

I loathe Diane Rheem. Can't stand her voice, one of the reasons I was pathetically glad to move away from my college town, where my local public radio station seemed to broadcast her approximately 18 hours a day.
posted by arnicae at 8:59 PM on August 24, 2009

I too hated Diane Rehm's voice until I learned she suffers from spasmodic dysphonia (Dilbert's Scott Adams and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. are also afflicted). OK, so I still don't enjoy her voice but at least I know what's going on with it...
posted by DawnSimulator at 9:25 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have to turn the radio off every time Diane Rheem comes on. And I always feel horrible about it. But her voice just sounds like it's about to crack and break into a million pieces. Also, Sylvia P'gioooooooli gets on my nerves.

Daniel Schorr has a very Bostonian way of speaking. Someone else mentioned Mayor Menino. You hear similar things in Barney Frank's accent, though his is over the top. I can't put my finger on exactly what it is, but I grew up in Mass and have always noticed that many older men there sound like they have speech impediments.

Also, I can't believe there are people here who apparently don't want Carl Kasell's voice on their home answering machines!
posted by lunasol at 11:14 PM on August 24, 2009

The guy is incredibly astute for a 92 y/o. It's like listening to Stephen Hawking - sure it's annoying but the things he talks about far outweigh his idiosynchrocies of speech.
posted by JJ86 at 6:11 AM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

To me -- at least in the example I listened to -- it sounds like he's reading a script that he's never seen before, as if he isn't sure where to stress certain words and where to pause for a split second to make things smooth. It's awesome that he's 92 and all, but I had a very difficult time listening to him... it took too much concentration to decipher what he was saying.
posted by bengarland at 6:38 AM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

[A few comments removed. This isn't a "talk about the radio voices you hate" bull session, so let's try not to go there.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:54 AM on August 25, 2009

I know what you're talking about, but it doesn't bother me at all. My wife, on the other hand: if I want to creep her out, all I need to say aloud is "Daniel Schorr's mouthnoise."
posted by schustafa at 8:30 AM on August 25, 2009

He swallows his consonants so there's not much separating his vowels. Stroke, maybe, or a newsman just can't give up the mic when he's past it.

The perfect solution would be for someone else to read his commentaries.

And the bit where he reads the first line of his script and then Liane Hansen (or whomever) chimes in with 'NPR News Analyst Daniel Schorr' before he continues is just about the most pretentious thing on a most pretentious radio network.
posted by DandyRandy at 11:01 AM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

And the bit where he reads the first line of his script and then Liane Hansen (or whomever) chimes in with 'NPR News Analyst Daniel Schorr' before he continues is just about the most pretentious thing on a most pretentious radio network.

Heh. You just reminded me of something I wrote almost five years ago:
They also need to take the marbles out of Daniel Schorr's mouth, too. And, while I'm asking for ponies, they need to stop that pretentious thing where Schorr speaks his first sentence, then an anchor comes in and "introduces" him as the "Senior News Analyst."
posted by pardonyou? at 2:55 PM on January 10, 2005 [+] [!]
posted by pardonyou? at 11:34 AM on August 25, 2009

Saw a clip about Ted Kennedy today, and Daniel Schoor was the commentator. This is from 1971!
posted by bengarland at 3:52 PM on August 26, 2009

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