Yet another little oddity from the Stephanie Miller Show, the other day: They were talking about this gay-hating preacher, Ted Haggard, who got nailed for snorting meth and whatever else with a male prostitute. He of course then got "cured". They ran a piece of an interview or statement he gave and were doubting that he was/is cured. In the course of that, they commented on his speech, asking whether he 'sounded gay'. Any 'gay accent' has proven extremely elusive — impossible to pin down from what I've read. There's a ton on the topic in American Speech, like this piece, and other journals — this one article gives you plenty of recent refs.
One of the guys on the show saidmore or less, "Well, his s'es sounded very sibilant." Hmmm, I hadn't heard anything distinct about the guy's speech, including his sibilants ([s] is by definition a 'sibilant'), and would have answered "no clue" if somebody had asked me if he sounded gay. But I asked the missus last night about this and she immediately responded: "Oh, they're saying the guy was lisping." That makes sense in terms of stereotypes, but I didn't hear it. If you search YouTube for this guy, you can hear plenty samples of his speech. I just can't hear anything lisp-like happening. I don't have time — or enough interest, really — to check and see if he has particular amounts of high energy in his [s], which is what I'd take 'very sibilant' to mean.
Is this a case of people hearing what they want?