“Hey, what’s up, you guys!” This is just one of the few variations of the classic opening to seemingly every YouTube video in existence. It’s hard to say how we got to this point, but the similarities between YouTubers go beyond than just an opening line. Their voices, their tone, and their pronunciation even sound the same.
To adults, the so-called “YouTube voice” grates the ears. It sounds fake and overdone. To kids, this energetic and showman-style of speech is just the way things are done. It’s not without reason either. The YouTube voice might be one of the surefire tricks to becoming popular online. According to The Atlantic, this popular presentation style, full of aspirations, pacing changes, and exaggerated movements and facial expressions, engages audiences. “You get the same kind of thing in other high-energy sales pitches,” linguist Mark Liberman told the outlet. “I guess the purest form of this style is the carnival barker.”
Naomi Baron, a linguistics professor at American University, highlights other tricks in the voice, including overstressed, long, and extra vowels. These tricks, according to speech pathologist Erin Hall, capture people’s attention like professionals in traditional media forms. “The actual segments they’re using — the vowels and consonants — are being over-enunciated compared to casual speech, which is something newscasters or radio personalities do,” she told Social Chain. “Even if what they’re saying is standard, adding a different kind of intonation makes it more engaging to listen to.”