Amy Foster
September 16, 2013 10:00 am

I am a child of the ’80s. When I was a teen it was normal for everything to be phrased as a question? You know? This trend continued throughout my 20’s? Now it is known as uptalk?

But while uptalk remains a style of vocalization, the new “trend” in speech pattern is called the vocal fry. Wonder what this sounds like? Watch an episode of the Kardashians, or Girls. It’s when you finish a sentence with a word that ends with a raspy fry or buzz. I meannn…

I use that statement far too much, but it’s a perfect example of the vocal fry. This way of talking has gotten a lot of press recently because unlike uptalk, which is perky positive and generally littered with the word ‘like’, the fry connotates boredom. Whatever you are saying, you are over it. Yeah, I mean, it’s super iiiinnntaaaarrrestingggg… It is interesting, but when you use the vocal fry, nothing is exciting. Many people judge this way of talking between young women as being ignorant or unintelligent. The reality is, the opposite is true. Young women are adapting this social speech pattern to build relationships with others quickly.

Young women are what the NY Times calls “a petri dish for change” in vocal patterns. If there is a linguistic change, many experts believe that it is young people leading the older generations. Uptalk, for example, is far more prevalent amongst older men than it ever was when I was a teen. They hear it from their teenage daughters and in turn will uptalk their way into a conversation to make themselves sound more “youthful”, and sometimes even less threatening.

However, the vocal fry has its naysayers, so to speak. Some people call it whiny; others are annoyed with how ambivalent people sound when they use this monotonous buzz to end a sentence. Personally, I think it’s a thing young women have adopted because there is just so much information and media being rushed into their systems that they’ve had to pull back and distance themselves emotionally. Remember when Facebook first started? How cool it was to see all the things your friends were doing and what they were up to? Now it’s just this bombardment of cats and trips and causes and prompts to like or share something or other. I think the vocal fry is the speech equivalent to eye rolling and truthfully, there’s a lot out there to eye roll about.

There are many theories as to why women specifically lead the brigade on changes in speech patterns. Some say it’s because we’re more sensitive to a social cues and therefore more likely to adapt our own speech to fit in with others. Another theory is that for centuries, language was a way of asserting our power when we were supposed to be docile and domestic. Whatever the reason, we have now reached the vocal fry.

I know I use it. Sometimes a situation calls for it, sometimes it doesn’t. I will say that I don’t love it when my 14-year-old daughter croakily rasps about her day. It’s okay for her to be annoyed or bored with something, but I do want to be able to tell when she’s  excited about an event or a conversation. Hearing that enthusiasm is almost impossible to convey when employing the fry. But, what are you going to do?

I mean…whatehhhhvvvverrrr, right? The train has already left the station.

How do you feel about this new speech pattern? Do you use it yourself?

Featured image via ShutterStock

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