Slurring and blurring

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Something seemed amiss from the very first words of this video:

As I watched the video, these questions raced through my head: 

man or woman?     from her / his dress and appearance, the person looks like a woman, but the voice and manners are rather masculine

parts are hard to understand       slurs and swallows words     speaks very fast in parts       very clear enunciation in other parts

In these days of gender bending, it shouldn't matter whether this person is a he or a she, but I felt that I needed to decide for linguistic purposes the main gender thrust of his / her speech (register, intonation, voice, vocabulary, and so forth).  Furthermore, regardless of the gender issues, I felt that the speaker was a poseur and not a genuine personality.  In short, I had an antipathy (fǎngǎn 反感) toward his / her manner of speaking.  At times he / she sounded as though he / she were speaking standard Pǔtōnghuà 普通话 (Modern Standard Mandarin), but at other times he / she veered off into an unidentifiable topolectal variety.

The video is 17:54 long, but you don't have to listen to all of it to get a sense of her / his manner of speaking.

The first words spoken are 大家好 ("Hello everyone"), but she / he slurs the first two syllables so badly that I wouldn't know how to transcribe the sounds, surely not "Dàjiā hǎo".  The "hǎo" is clear, but the "Dàjiā" is just a mess.  And he / she does the same thing when she / he repeats it later.

My uncertain impressions were confirmed by these remarks from a perceptive correspondent in China:

I believe the speaker is a man, dressed in a woman's outfit, possibly mimicking someone. Since the video addresses a new policy made by the Tax Administration, I looked up those who are in charge of this. Do you think he is mocking this woman in the snap below (Haiying Wu–Leader of the Discipline Inspection and Supervision Team of the State Supervision Commission in the State Administration of Taxation)? I could be wrong. But the speaker does other videos in man's manner. So it's actually a bit weird he is dressed this way for this video.

Also, the way he speaks is interesting. He somehow has a Beijing accent, but not 100% as Beijing people usually speak in a very clear and firm way (if you get what I mean). Then I googled this guy (苏小和, as it is listed in his Youtube channel). He is actually from Hunan and lived in Beijing for a while. The way he speaks bugs me as I don't like Beijing accent in the first place, the slurring also makes him hard to follow. But to those who actually watch his videos for content, how he speaks might not matter that much.

No matter what he is doing — cross dressing, voice altering, topolect mixing — it all seems to be part of a performance that is intended to get across his opposition to the proposed changes in the tax structure.


Selected readings

[h.t. Arthur Waldron; thanks to Jinyi Cai]

1 Comment

  1. D. Kuo said,

    August 20, 2021 @ 3:59 pm


    Just want to point out one thing. If glancing at his past Youtube videos, the outfit has been worn in several videos for various topics. So I don't think it is worn to mock the woman in this specific video. His style and features are leaning gender-neutral compared to other Chinese ex-pat YouTubers. HOWEVER, cross-dressing or gender-bending seems too extreme. It is more like a small-built man with a longer-than-usual hairstyle and an inappropriately-tied English scarf. As for the questionable scarf, perhaps related to his identity as a published poet?

    Don't take me wrong. Not very interested in what he has to say. Just as a sociology-trained researcher, I think the gender issue is nothing more than the stereotyped male masculinity.

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