Why Do Auctioneers Talk So Fast?

Auctioneers like to speed it up.
Auctioneers like to speed it up. / Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Even if you’ve never attended a live auction, you’ve probably seen the fast-talking patter of the auctioneer on television or in film. It’s something like:

HeycanIheartwohundredtwohundedgivemetwohundred…three…doIhearthreehundred…four…will you give me four…fourhundredandsold.”

It’s entertaining, but is it necessary? Why do auctioneers for livestock sound like they’re operating at 2x speed?

Vox spoke with Livestock Marketing Association world champion auctioneer Brandon Neely to get an answer. It really comes down to something akin to a dance beat. By talking quickly, a sense of urgency builds up in the minds of buyers.

But “the chant,” as these rapid-fire narrations are known, aren’t as fast as you think. “The speed that sounds fast is not that fast,” Neely said. “If you dissect an auctioneer's chant and you take out all the filler words, you'd just have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.”

Fillers are basically the connective tissue of action in the auction: Phrases like “do I hear,” “come on,” or others. Auctioneers typically mash the phrases together to create a musical, humming-type sound.

That cadence may actually work to lull bidders into a kind of trance, eager to interact with the auctioneer when the call is made to increase the bid.

Delivering near-hypnotic patter is just one part of the auctioneer’s job, which also involves having plenty of information about the items (or animals) up for sale and being able to scan the room for legitimate bidders. But not just anyone can be an auctioneer. Many states require them to be licensed, and it takes lots of practice to deliver the goods.

Where does all the energy come from? For some auctioneers, it’s personal. They can take 10 to 20 percent of the sales price for their efforts.

[h/t Vox]