As an auctioneer, I am often asked "How do you talk so fast?" or "Do you have to attend a school to learn to talk so fast?" This has prompted me to consider several aspects of the auctioneer's chant.
The history of the auctioneer's chant in America seems to be unclear as to its origin. What is clear is that the rapid chant, "fast talk", of an auctioneer is an American invention and that it most likely began during the Civil War. The Officers of the prevailing military would gather the spoils of war and conduct an auction in a "sing-song" fashion that garnered attention from an otherwise dis-interested audience. From this practice, American auctioneers are referred to as "Colonel".
While the auctioneer's chant or bid call is customarily rapid, when carefully dissected, it is not talking fast. Rather, it is an assemblage of "filler words" craftily combined with numbers in a manner that appears to be talking fast. These filler words are often shorten to create a rhythmic flow. In other cases, the filler words aren't even words at all. They may be imaginary words that the auctioneer has created in order to generate a phrase. One constant to all professional auctioneer's chant is that the numbers will be clear and understandable. The filler words and numbers will be combined in short and repeated phrases. An example might be, 1 dolla (dollar), 1 dolla, wud ya bid (would you bid) 1 dolla, now 2 dolla, 2 dolla, wud ya bid 2, 1 dolla's bid wud ya bid 2. This pattern will be repeated and the numbers changed as the bid price and asking price are increased. As the auctioneer gains experience, the filler words are changed or created in such a way that is unique and comfortable to that individual. The great auctioneers have a chant that is pleasing to hear, interesting to watch as well as effective in engaging the buying audience.
Most states have a licensing requirement for auctioneers that mandate attending and graduation from an auctioneer school. Among the many aspects of professional auctioneering taught at school are techniques for the auctioneer to practice the chant. While practice is certainly key to becoming an effective auctioneer, talent is equally important. Some individuals are simply gifted with a talent to be an auctioneer.
The auctioneer's chant is not designed to be misleading or deceitful in any way. It is designed and utilized in order to create excitement and interest from the audience. Furthermore, it is used in such a way as to stimulate competitiveness between the bidders. As an agent for the seller, the auctioneer is charged with generating maximum market value for the product offered.
I hope this post clears some of the mystique surrounding the chant of an auctioneer and lessens any intimidation that you might have had about attending auctions.