Culture Magazine

Anomalies of French Life: the Cigarette Voice

By Sedulia @Sedulia

Journalists Isaure du Fretay and Jean-Pierre Gaillard. J-P  starts talking at about 0:12

It took me a while to figure out why French radio authority figures sounded so different from American ones. The Americans, no matter their age, just sounded... younger somehow. One day I was listening to Radio France Info, as usual, and Jean-Pierre Gaillard came on with his emblématique "Jean-Pierre Gaillard: La Bourse" [the stock exchange]. His voice was deep and strong, somehow reassuring. Suddenly it hit me. 

Smoking is the reason these people's voices sound different.* 

Of course, there are still plenty of smokers in the U.S.A.  But on the whole, the upper and media classes (what the Brits call "the chattering classes") are non-smoking, and the broadcast scratchy voice disappeared years ago when they quit. 


*I have no idea if J-P smokes. My guess is he used to smoke a lot and has given up in the past few years-- he's not as scratchy as he used to be.

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