A husband, flicking through the newspaper one day, comes across a study that says women have a higher “word budget” than men. “See,” he tells her, “Proof that you talk too much!”
The wife leans over and reads the study, which has found men speak an average of 7000 words per day, while women can easily clock up 20,000 or more.
The wife thinks about this then tells her husband, “It’s because we have to repeat everything we say”.
“What?” says the husband.
“I said, it’s because we always have to repeat ourselves to get a response”.
“Yes dear,” he says.
Yeah, it’s a stereotype, sure there are exceptions to every rule and, in fact, that particular piece of research has been widely debunked as a myth. But how many times have you faced the Great Wall Of One-Liners that is man?
The classic example of this is “How was your day”?
He says, “Good thanks”.
She says, “Oh good, me too. I almost missed the bus but made it in the end, did you know they’ve changed the timetable? I much preferred it when the 690 left at 7.15 but I guess that’s just how it goes. I picked up some steak for dinner but realised we should probably have fish tonight. We don’t eat enough fish. Omega 3s are very important for good health, you know…”
The Female Brain, published by Louann Brizendine, director of the University of California’s Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic, originally made the claim that women are chatterboxes, speaking around three times more than men, however the fact appears to be unfounded.
The Scientific American debunked the theory by reporting another study that found the average number of words spoken by men and women is roughly the same (women at 16,215 words and men at 15,669). Interestingly, the range is wider among blokes, with the most economical uttering only 500 words a day and the most verbose clocking up 47,000.
However another small study of children and baby rats in 2013 pinpointed a brain protein that could be the reason female children pick up language earlier and women love to chat. Researchers are calling Foxp2 the “language protein”, and have found it occurs more in human girls and boy rat pups, which cry out and are more vocal that their sisters.
So what is the real reason men seem to have so little to say?
Perhaps men and women simply prefer talking about different things. As James Pennebaker, chair of the University of Texas’s psychology department, points out, women tend to enjoy yabbering about other people, whereas men like to drone on about objects and other less abstract topics.
Do you chat more than the men in your life? What do you think is behind the gap in the male-female word budget?