The pictures are better on the radio

There’s a saying that “the pictures are better on the radio”. I think there’s a lot of truth in this. You construct mental pictures of the radio presenters and other people you hear, and of the events and places they describe or evoke with sound effects. There are no actual pictures to distract you and your imagination can run wild. When you watch television or films, much less is left to your imagination.

I listen to the radio a lot, and the mental images I have of the people on the radio, based solely on their voices and names, are rarely a good match for what these people actually look like. I definitely prefer radio to television and haven’t had a telly since moving to Brighton about eight years ago. Some find this strange and wonder how I manage without a telly, but I don’t miss it, and on the rare occasions I do watch it, I rarely see programmes that make me want to rush out and buy a set. I do occasionally watch DVDs on my computer though, and like going to the cinema as well.

When I hear a radio play or see a film based on a book I’ve read, the way the characters look and talk is often different to the way I imagined them. If I hear the play or see the film before reading the book, my imagination is affected by what I’ve seen and heard in the play or film.

At work, my experience is similar to Terry’s and Polly’s, as mentioned in the comments on yesterday’s post – when I finally meet people I’ve talked to a lot on the phone, they often don’t resemble my mental image of them. It is almost as if they are one person on the phone, and another in the flesh.

When talking on the phone, do you behave in a different way to when you talk to someone face-to-face?

This entry was posted in Language.

7 Responses to The pictures are better on the radio

  1. Polly says:

    In answer to your last question: No, I act and speak exactly the same on the phone, even down to making hand and facial gestures, stupidly enough.
    I’ve seen others who gesture on the phone, too, so I don’t feel quite so idiotic for doing it. 🙂

    Have you ever forgotten whether you’ve read a book or watched a movie? I think I’ve done that with a book. The memories of a sci-fi novel were so vivid that I had forgotten that it was not a movie, but a “mere” book!

    I really respect people who don’t own TVs (Tellies?). I am practically an addict. Even when there’s nothing on, I’ll channel surf until something vaguely interesting pops up. I’ve watched EVERY SINGLE episode of Seinfeld at least 5 times. SAP, is about the only redeeming feature of TV. (SAP is Spanish simulcast. great for practice.)
    At least I don’t subscribe to cable, so my fix is free. If I ever do, I’ll have to seriously consider checking into some kind of rehab.

  2. Colm says:

    I can’t stand the TV. I either download movies on my laptop, or rent DVDs to watch but I rarely watch the TV. It’s so fully of crap these days even though we have Sky and hundreds of channels. Oh for the good ol’ days when we just had RTÉ1, NET2, BB1 and S4C. There was always something to watch. Now?: Nothing! I do admire to watching omnibuses of CSI: Las Vegas, I show I absoutely LOVE! But apart from that: nada. I can’t stand channel surfing.

    As regards books I am always dissapointed if I see a movie based on a book I had previously read. The movie never lives up to my own imgaination, the characters are different, the voices, the scenery, plus they generally cut lot alot of the book and something add new stuff.

    For me though, I like when I read a book after seeing the movie because it helps me visualise the action better.

  3. SamD says:

    I suspect I talk to people more or less as I would speak to them in person. This is especially true if I know the person quite well.

    I listen to the radio far more than I watch television. Even with more options than before, television is a real disappointment. If it weren’t for news, sports and the Weather Channel, I probably wouldn’t watch at all. I have my own notions of what people on the radio look like, but I don’t always get to find out how accurate I am in my guesses.

  4. I wear glasses, and I need to wear them even when I talk on the phone, even when I do not need to note down or read anything at the same time. But I seem to hear better what people are saying, and to have a clearer picture of the world in front of me.

  5. Jared says:

    When talking in person, I am very animated – according to my friends, anyway. When on the phone, I sit, immobile as a fungus on a rotten log, with no changes in facial expression except maybe a smile. Coincidentally, I hate talking on the phone unless it’s necessary, such as when speaking with a friend in Texas or a grandparent in Wisconsin. I like face-to-face conversations. It’s easier to connect with the person that way.

    In regards to TV, I think that so few programs are good anymore. In America at least we have gore-drenched cop and lawyer shows, shows about people solving crimes through a form of necromancy (this is not attractive to me), and reality TV up the wazoo. I used to watch three shows: The West Wing, Star Trek: Enterprise (which was more of a guilty pleasure), and Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye, which wasn’t a stellar show, but it was entertaining. The networks canceled all three of these in quick succession. Now I watch Monk. That’s about all, not counting movies on cable. I don’t go to the theater/cinema very often; I think I’ve been fewer than ten times in my entire life.

  6. BG says:

    I thought I didn’t go to the movies very often at around three times a year. I hardly watch TV at all, although I don’t really listen to the radio that much either.

  7. P Terry Hunt says:

    Barring a couple of periods of a few months, I haven’t had a TV in my successive dwellings since about 1980: I occasionally watch major sporting events in a pub (though my regular pub, the Flower Pots Inn at Cheriton, is TV-less), and on the few days a year I’m on holiday and in a hotel.

    I miss a few programmes I’d probably like (e.g. nature documentaries), but it’s worth it to avoid all the dross — yes, I know there’s an off-switch, but when a TV’s there I get sucked into watching it.

    However, about 3 years ago I bought my retired parents (who also eschew TV) a portable TV/Video Combo *with the tuner removed* so that they could watch videos without requiring a TV Licence and without the lurking availability of live broadcasts. They’ve since added a DVD player, so they (and on visits I) can watch the likes of ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ and any amount of classic films, mostly bought from charity shops for around 50p.

    Apart from constant nagging by the TV Licence Authorities, the main downside is that if I visit friends who leave their TV on in the background, I find it more difficult to ignore than the TV-habituated do.

    At home I have the radio on fairly constantly, because I can listen and eat/read/wash etc simultaneously. I do of course build mental pictures of the speakers, and where fictional characters are concerned I actively avoid printed pictures of the actors who play them but ‘don’t look like them.’

    Regarding Books/Films etc, I usually prefer whatever version I’ve first experienced unless the other one is seriously superior; novelisations are often hackwork, and films rarely measure up to books they’re based on, usually because the media are so different that a film *has* to lose much of a book’s structure and detail in order not to run 7+ hours: TV mini-series often give much better renditions. I wish more films were based on shorter/simpler text forms, novellas or novelettes – I think this would work much better.

    Terry H

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