The Loop: Spoken very clearly

Welcome to The Loop, the Magazine's letters column, including the best of your thoughts on Twitter and Facebook.

We've not been short of subjects arousing strong passions this week, including the post-pregnancy images of women's bodies, the ethics of whale-hunting and a poignant tale of a young pilot whose poems strangely foresaw his own death.

But nothing hit the mark quite like the call by the BBC's director general Lord Hall for actors on television and film to stop mumbling.

Andrew Billen, the TV critic for the Times, told us his theory that "TV is made by young people, but it's watched by old people", but Sophie Chalmers of Chepstow adds: "It's worse than that. TV is made by people with the script to hand, so they know what they should be hearing... and so hear it. Us poor viewers don't... and can't."

Gillian Munrow of Amersham emailed us to say: "I recently watched I, Claudius on BBC Four and found it a pleasure to be able to hear what the actors were saying without resorting to subtitles. The limited sets were more than acceptable - although it has to be said that the makeup was often a bit clumsy - but it was a real pleasure to hear all the actors and listen to such a wonderful script."

Gwen Harris, 81, of Eastbourne, seems somewhat cheered by the debate. "I do tend to miss a lot of the dialogue," she writes. "I thought it was me." Alan Patterson of Sedgefield says that even after being fitted with two hearing aids - so good that he "can hear small birds singing for the first time in years", he still has trouble with mumbling actors.

Peter Sheldon of Paignton wonders this: "Why is it when sitting in the next room can we hear every word of the shipping forecast but less than half of the general weather forecast?"

Derek, UK, works in research and development for radio communications, and says he is working on the next generation of DAB chips. He has his own theory: "The developers of the newer digital TV standards missed a gaping opportunity to resolve the issue of inaudible speech. What should have been done was to provide three separate audio feeds, all stereo. One feed exclusively for speech, one for sound effects and one for music. Then those that want little or no music can have it and producers can be given free-er reign with their mixing. In an age of choice, why does one sound have to fit all?"

Image caption Casting solution to inaudible TV problem

Lisala Dolo, a sound recordist working on TV and films, puts the blame on drama schools. She wrote on our Facebook page: "I worked with Brian Blessed on Monday and it was a pleasure to listen to someone with complete control of their voice, loud and quiet. Remember actors - mumbling makes you look bad."

So that's the answer - cast Brian Blessed more.

The debate could result in a comedy clip stand-off: Is it more Fast Show (as proposed by Stuart Myers on our Facebook page) or more Mitchell and Webb (as proposed by Jaff of Norwich).


Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg revealed - shock, horror - that he has been taking his shoes off in the office this week. (For readers outside the UK, it's been hot here.)

Claudia from Cardiff writes: "I currently live in Sweden where people generally take off their outdoor shoes when going to the gym, small workplaces, school and of course always in people's houses and at home. It comes from the winter, having boots full of snow, but it is done all year round. It's much more hygienic and protects the wooden floors." Nordic trends are very popular.

Image caption No. Just no.

Though not with John of Northants. "Taking shoes off if it gets too hot - is this article aimed at the entire workforce in the UK or the chosen few who inhabit offices? Taking my boots off at work isn't an option and yesterday it was 47C in the sun. Try working in that and then write your pointless article."

So probably not much affinity with Sean Handley of Manchester, then? "If you're in an office, what's the harm? In our office we wear whatever's comfortable - shoes, trainers, flip flops, stilettos, boots, Vibram five fingers or bare feet. Never had any issues arising from that whatsoever!"

The Magazine's wonderful colleagues at More or Less wondered this week how is the best way to measure crowd size. On Facebook some readers gave us their own, maybe not so practical, methods. Steve Plows said: "Simple. When they've all gone home, count the McDonalds boxes left on the floor." And Ian Jay might have the answer: "I always count the legs then divide by two. It's close enough."


And now a traditional number of verbatim emails.

John, Reading, was not alone in writing this: "I'm sure you've already had thousands of comments but I feel impelled to point out that Studland Bay is in Dorset not Devon as stated in your 7 days quiz."

Phil, Guisborough, is mystified: "What's all this about rowing? Is this new thing? I've been out of the loop a bit."

No longer, friend. No longer.

Last week The Loop told how Suzy from Aylesbury valued the seven and 14 times tables in her work as a pharmacist. Ben Young from Wishaw says: "I hope I never need a prescription filled by her, unless it happens to be February - her special mental maths seems to be based on a month only being 28 days."

And final word to longstanding correspondent Curt Carpenter of Dallas, Texas. "Ah. Good. Please publish more of your readers' magnificent letters, which always inspire me to hum a few bars of Amazing Grace and restore my dwindling faith in our species."

Well it is public service journalism.

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