Stuttering..the Star in “The King’s Speech”

Stuttering (or as the Brits call it, stammering) is really the star of this Academy Award-nominated movie, which has been nominated for 12 awards. It highlights a rather common malady which affects about 5% of the population. In fact, many of us have stammered at one time or another, especially during periods of stress and duress – like after being stopped by a police officer or delivering a speech for the first time!

Stammering and stuttering have the same meaning – it is a speech disorder in which the person repeats or prolongs words, syllables or phrases. The person with a stutter (or stammer) may also stop during speech and make no sound for certain syllables. To illustrate, look at this trailer from The King’s Speech“:


Stuttering is common when children are learning to speak. However, the majority of kids grow out of this stage of initial stuttering. If it persists, then it becomes a problem and professional help may be required. The commonest cause of stuttering is developmental, meaning that the speech and language skills located in one part of  the brain are not developed enough to race along at the same speed as what they want to say, which is located in another part of the brain.

It was once believed that the cause may be psychological (such as forcing a left-handed child to write with his right) but this has been dismissed by experts. In fact, the myth that stutterers have defective IQs has long been debunked.  Some other facts include:

  • half of people who stutter have close relatives who do the same.
  • children who stutter below 3.5 years old are unlikely to stutter in adulthood.
  • normal stuttering in children generally does not last more than 2 years.
  • boys are more likely to stutter than girls, by as much as 4 times.

Can stuttering be cured?  The outlook is very good, especially with speech therapy and behaviour therapy.

The popular TV series “Open All Hours” has the late Ronnie Barker using stuttering as a theme.

So, will Colin Firth win the Best Actor award? I’m going to stick my head out and say no, largely because his acting as a stutterer is rather unconvincing, IMHO. (Update: So he won the Best Actor Award anyway..but I stand by what I said)

One response

  1. Doc, I understand that spoofing others who stutter may end up with the imitator acquiring the trait!
    Is that true?

    Doctor2008 says: I heard this one when I was a kid! Its old wife’s tales…

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