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Stammer struggles

Stammer struggles

on 22.10.2010. | 12,266 views
Stammer struggles
written by: Vanja Valčić
A stammerer is taking the mickey out of a baldy: “You m-m-m-must be s-s-s-spending a fo-fo-fortune on y-y-your haird-d-d-do.” The baldy replies: “Not as much as you spend on your phone bill”…




    You must have heard such jokes a million times. Perhaps you even laughed at them. But those who stammer don’t find these jokes particularly funny. This speech disorder is so unpleasant that many of those who suffer from it feel handicapped. They cannot finish a word, sometimes they cannot even start it, their lips tremble, they blink a lot and sweat.  And the jokes people play on them can be truly nasty! Stammering is not a rare disorder – there are 60 thousand children in Croatia who stammer. Boys stammer three times more than girls. But stammering usually disappears when they reach adulthood, primarily thanks to speech therapy. Many famous people had a problem with stammering, and even nowadays, they occasionally falter – but they know how to keep their stammering under control.
I’ll give you a few examples:  Slaven Bilić, the head coach of the national football team was stammering for a long time. He had hard time dealing with bullying at school. His father took him to a speech therapist and he stopped stammering.

Demosthenes, Newton, Churchill, Mr. Bean

  And now, let’s go far back to the past: you have all probably heard of Demosthenes – the most prominent orator of ancient Greece.  It is hard to believe, but this great orator stammered as a child and he was afraid to speak in public. As there were no speech therapists he could work with in ancient Greece, in 4th century BC, he overcame his speech impediment in a hard way.  He would place small pebbles in his mouth, stand on the seashore, and scream at the top of his lungs over the roar of waves.  He overcame stammering so well that he became a legend.


  Prominent scientists were also not spared from stammering. Isaac Newton, an English physicist, mathematician and astronomer from the 17th century was the first one to define the law of gravitation by observing an apple falling to the ground. This taciturn fellow was a member of the Parliament of England. The reason for his silence was – stammering. Apparently, when speaking in the Parliament he would ask that the windows be closed so the public could not hear him stammering. Two centuries later, his co-sufferer was Charles Darwin, an English naturalist – the one who laid the foundation for the modern theory of evolution in his book “On the Origin of Species”. When puzzled during a conversation, he would pronounce the first word of a sentence with a stammer, mainly the words starting with the letter “W”.
The persons of the royal blood were also not spared from stammering – British King George VI was a man with a reserved and quiet nature who was not expected to ascent to the British throne.  He dreaded any public speaking engagements. When he ascended the throne, he worked with speech therapists and managed to overcome stammering but he was never quite at ease with speaking in public.  The King’s Speech – a film dealing with his stammer struggles and the way he overcame them has recently been released in cinemas.
It is a little known fact that Prince Albert of Monaco also suffers from stammering. A curious thing is that he stammers only when speaking in French, his father’s mother tongue, while he speaks in English fluently.
Legendary British Prime Minister Winston Churchill could only speak fluently if he had prepared his speech in advance. He was consider the best orator in the British Parliament and he would prepare his speeches meticulously for weeks in advance at times. He would even learn them by heart in order to avoid stammering.

  Stammering in the show business

Let’s take a look at show business! How can you be a film star and stammer? It doesn’t go together. Marilyn Monroe, an unforgettable beauty from the big screen would speak in a subdued voice, as if she was breathless. Hardly anyone knew that she was struggling with stammering. Speech coaches helped her and taught her to use exaggerated mouth movements and a breathy and affected speaking style to control her stammering.
Problems have also befallen on our eternally flummoxed Mr Bean, or rather Rowan Atkinson, a British actor famous for his work on the sitcoms Mr. Bean and Blackadder, who still occasionally stammers nowadays. He struggles with the words starting with the letter “B”. He managed to overcome his problem by over-articulation, which has ironically become one of his best- known trademark comic devices.
But who would think that even alpha males, such as Bruce Willis stammer? Action hero Bruce Willis could not even speak without stammering in his childhood. His condition got better at high school when he joined a drama club, and while performing on stage his stammer would disappear completely.
All these examples show that stammering need not to be a bugbear. A firm decision and the help of experts can help in overcoming it.  Remember, people who stammer can sometimes become better orators than those who don’t, because they make an effort and work zealously. And therefore, if you struggle with the stammer and you want to overcome it, you have to take the first step.


Written by:
Vanja Valčić, journalist



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