There exists a kind of long-standing rivalry between the French and the English (and the Americans). Some of it is rooted in history, but could some of it come from language? Here's an interesting little theory about why the French, at least, find English-speakers annoying.

Any two nations that spend a long time next to each other are going to develop a rivalry. That certainly happened between France and England. That national irritation has transferred to America. For some reason, the "cheese-eating surrender monkeys," and the "burger-eating invasion monkeys," are locked into a state of mutual irritation.

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One man thinks that, while the English and the Americans have no reason to develop eye twitches around the French, the French have good reason for their instinctive irritation. Spoken English might be designed to get on French nerves. Why? Because they can't ignore it.

If you're trying to get some work done, a steady conversation outside your door might not distract you. A fight definitely will. It's not just the emotion - it's the sudden shifts from loud to quiet to loud again. According to David Huron, a musicologist at Ohio State University, this is the roughness of the sound, the way it jaggedly changes amplitude.

While spoken French is, in general, very even and steady, English is rougher. English speakers stress certain words, or certain parts of words. To French ears, Huron believes, those stresses seem to come out of nowhere, making spoken the equivalent of someone playing with the volume of the television. Soft would be good. Loud would be tolerable. But unpredictably soft and loud will drive anyone crazy.

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It's not a proven idea, but it's an interesting notion. It's also somewhat of a dispiriting one. Forget world peace, because some cultures have languages that are designed to antagonize each other.

[Source: Annoying]