Mime or lip-synch?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by kuleshov, Feb 9, 2008.

  1. kuleshov Senior Member

    Spain Spanish
    Thanks a lot Loob and Emma

    By the way, I've read the site you mentioned, Loob, and they use the verb mime instead of lip-synch. Are they interchangeable? Or do you usually use mime -let's say 80%- and lip-synch 20% -to say something, if you use lip-synch at all.

  2. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I suspect lip-synch is the technical term, kuleshov. In this context, mime has a slightly critical air: "Look at him, he's miming - I always knew he couldn't sing!"
  3. kuleshov Senior Member

    Spain Spanish
    So, nobody uses the verb to lip-synch in colloquial spoken English!!! Whenever singers just move their lips to recorded lyrics we have to say S/he is miming.

    Ewie, in Spanish we also use the same expression, but in more formal registers.

  4. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    As Loob says, Kule, mime is by far the commoner word, though that's not to say that lip-synch is a very technical term. But (also as Loob says) mime ~ so similar to pantomime ~ does have a slightly derogatory feel to it.

    Quote Kuleshov:
    Ewie, in Spanish we also use the same expression, but in more formal registers.
    [Original post now in different thread about Spice Girls cough-cough]
  5. mplsray Senior Member

    My impression is just the opposite, that "lip-synch" is now the most common way of referring to moving the lips to the words of recorded music while "mime" is basically never used with that meaning. (Certainly, it would never occur to me to use "mime" thus.)

    Is there perhaps a difference between British-English and American-English on this?
  6. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Perhaps it's that, MPL, or perhaps it's a generational thing ~ I certainly know the term lip-synch well, and would use it if I particularly wanted to be impartial, but, having grown up in (the UK in) the age when all us little teeny-idiots assumed all our fave pop-artistes were really singing on the telly ... I've lost the end of that sentence. What I want to say is: back in the 80s, when such things as The Milli Vanilli Affair seemed somehow important, what they were accused and subsequently found guilty of was miming rather than lip-synching. So yeah, it's most likely a BE generational thing.
    (Of course nowadays, if an act isn't lip-synching, a great fuss is made of the event: You must watch Poptrash this Thursday ~ Pee Doodie is actually going to sing live!)
  7. emma42 Senior Member

    North East USA
    British English
    I agree with ewie. I used to hear "mime" a lot in this context, but now hear "lip synch" more often. I think it's due to the more open nature of things now. In the "olden days", audiences weren't supposed to know about such things as "miming" et al. Nowadays, audiences are aware of much more - from the personal lives of singers and stars, to the technicalities of performance. We understand the technical term now. I hope that makes sense.
  8. nzfauna

    nzfauna Senior Member

    Wellington, New Zealand
    New Zealand, English
    To me, miming is what those funny silent clowns do, who are dressed in black and white.

    Lip-synching is moving your mouth to make it appear that you are singing. [ And it is used in colloquial contexts, Kule ]
  9. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    And if you are trained to read lips (as I am) a surprising number of TV shows are "out of sync".
  10. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    I wouldn't say that the term "lip-synching" has overtaken "miming" in common usage in the UK; I would venture that, in casual conversation, "miming" is still more likely to be heard. It was certainly the term used historically used in the UK to describe the practice, although I agree that through US influence "lip-synching" has certainly entered the language here. However it is somewhat technical, and to me, it goes against principles of plain speaking and, it might be said, gives the practice a certain dignity that it doesn't deserve.

    If you put "miming" and "Top of The Pops" (where virtually all performances were mimed) into Google you get a considerable number of hits, including an article on the show in Wikipedia, which mentions pop group Oasis miming.
  11. Gwan Senior Member

    Indre et Loire, France
    New Zealand, English
    I would come down on the side of 'lip-synching'. It appears to be a BE/non-BE divide from what I can see.
  12. cycloneviv

    cycloneviv Senior Member

    Perth, Western Australia
    English - Australia
    In AusE, I would expect to hear "miming". As others have mentioned, "lip-synch" seems to me to be a more recent import, which I had assumed was from the US.

    EDIT: I just realised something. Only a singer can lip-synch, whereas an entire band can mime. The guitarist/s, bass player, drummer et al pretend to play, while the singer pretends to sing.
  13. kuleshov Senior Member

    Spain Spanish
    Thank you guys,

    It's true, the ones pretending to play an instruments are actually miming, whereas the singer is miming if we consider them all as a miming act, or lip-synching if we refer just to the lyrics. Most times, singers perform live on TV to recorded music and on TV we get the message "voz en directo." "live voice" -literal translation- I guess you must have a similar message on the screen when this happens in an English speaking country. What do you get on your TV screens?

    Incidentally, in Spain, when a band mimes we say that they are doing "playback." So, we use an English word with a different meaning in Spanish. I'd be interesting to know the origin of this usage in Spanish.

  14. kuleshov Senior Member

    Spain Spanish
    I forgot to tell you:

    Thanks a lot for the insights into the different uses of the expression in different English varieties. I know this is taken for granted, but you cannot imagine how grateful I am to you all. I have a doubt, I don't know how to use an expression, and suddently a lot of people from different countries tell you how they use it.

    My warmest thanks.
  15. This is exactly what we do in Polish: we literally say "they play from playback" using an English word for playback and the rest in Polish.

    It can & often applies to performances when ONLY the singer is live, while the band mimes.

    Maybe the origin is in the normal English usage of the band playing the "backing" music (there is such a usage, isn't there??), thus confusion *and transference to "playback".
  16. emma42 Senior Member

    North East USA
    British English
    Yes, I would say "singing to a backing track". In the case of the band, "miming to a backing track".

    I am approaching this from the point of view of an ex-professional singer, though, so I might have a somewhat skewed/specialised perception of usages in this area.
  17. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    The on-line WRD doesn't seem to mention any definition of mime equivalent to what we call "lip-synching."
  18. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Here it is in the OED:

    c. trans. To pretend to sing or play an instrument as a recording is being played; esp. to mouth the words of (a song) in time with an accompanying soundtrack. Also intr., with to, along with, etc.

    The OED actually gives a New York Times quotation under this definition:

    1983 N.Y. Times (Nexis) 12 June, The principals mouth and mime Paul Williams's songs over the sound of adult basses, tenors, contraltos and sopranos.

    But I think that's incorrect. The New York Times is surely talking about "Bugsy Malone", so "mime" here almost certainly means "act out" rather than "lip-synch" (especially as it says "mouth and mime").

    Now we've got to write to both Mike and the OED!:D

    [I volunteer if no-one else wants to...]
  19. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    Is "air guitar" playing, miming? Or is it just playing the air guitar?
  20. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    In the USA at least, mimes work silently and do not move their lips at all except to show emotion or surprise (like in an Edvard Munch painting).

    So someone could both mime the actions and mouth the words.

    I don't understand where the error is. In fact there is no clear indication that there is a vocal track involved here, just that there is orchestration to the original songs.
  21. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    I've never seen an equivalent on-screen message here, Kule. But (as I think I already said) when someone does sing live there's always a big fanfare about it beforehand, and afterwards the presenter will invariably remind the audience again That was So-and-So singing live for us here today in the studio!

Share This Page