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On talking terms

Among all the stereotypes that we discuss, this one has acquired almost cult status: women talk more than men and get a high when they hear their own voice.

india Updated: Jul 09, 2007 05:44 IST

Among all the stereotypes that we discuss, this one has acquired almost cult status: women talk more than men, they speak more quickly, devote more time to chit-chat and get a high when they hear their own voice. However, this pro-men lexical-budget theory has been turned upside down by James Pennebaker of the University of Texas and Matthias Mehl of the University of Arizona. Their study, published in Science, involving 400 students, found that women spoke an average of 16,215 words daily, while men averaged 15,669 words a day. The difference of 546 words between the two groups, the scientists concluded, is not significant. On an average, they added, men and women use an average of 16,000 words each day. That’s about 15 words per waking minute, assuming a person sleeps seven hours.

Now that we are the co-winners of the talkathon award, can anyone tell us how on earth the term ‘chatterbox’ acquired such negative connotations and came to be associated with the female gender? Haven’t we all heard of the gift of the gab? It is a ‘gift’, right? Or, is there truth in the equally plausible, alternative theory that women don’t talk much , actually it’s the men who don’t listen enough.

Now that this urban legend has been demolished, one wonders whether the chatty girls and strong, silent men theory holds true for all cultures. As Kahlil Gibran once famously said: “The real in us is silent, the acquired is talkative.”