In recent presidential elections, the average TV sound bite has dropped to a tick under eight seconds. A shorter, dumber, and shriller political discourse, it seems, has become another hazard of modern life. But new research suggests that the specter of the shrinking sound bite is anything but new. In fact, quotations from politicians have been getting shorter for more than a century. ... By 1916, they found, the average political quotation in a newspaper story had fallen to about half the length of the average quotation in 1892.