December 12, 2011

"A curious vocal pattern has crept into the speech of young adult women who speak American English: low, creaky vibrations, also called vocal fry."

"Pop singers, such as Britney Spears, slip vocal fry into their music as a way to reach low notes and add style. Now, a new study of young women in New York state shows that the same guttural vibration—once considered a speech disorder—has become a language fad."

Science Magazine has a big article
— and Metafilter's talking about it — but the Althouse blog nailed this topic back in 2007.

65 comments:

edutcher said...

That's it?

Big whoop!

rhhardin said...

It's not as bad as the interrogatory statement

(I'm Patty? From Vancouver?)

traditionalguy said...

I call that croaking. It comes from the top of the throat and usually isn't used in speaking except as a sign of being too worn out and weakened to do pleasant sounds along with the speech. It is the minimal effort to use speech codes like a dying battery.

spunky said...

You're right, rhhardin, dead on.

I've also noticed, also primarily with younger women, that the "oo" sound in "moon" is enhanced as sort of a flat "ew" sound. So "movie" becomes like "mew-vie". Or "food" becomes like "fewd".

m stone said...

The sing-song pattern is annoying and generally called out by public speaking professors. Women also often end on a high pitch, which I am told is gender-specific.

Bad all around. Vary your vocals is what we teach.

madAsHell said...

It's not real.
It's computer generated.

Her only talent is strutting across the stage in vulgar outfits.

Not that I mind vulgar outfits....they just don't work for her!

Toshtu said...

Valley girl with a growl.

Indigo Red said...

I don't know what's so new about it - Lauren Bacall did it for years.

ricpic said...

Well, Britney's from Louisiana, too many fish fries and you get vocal fry. I don't know what the other gals' excuse is.

Lionheart said...

I first noticed this years ago when Jill Abramson was on a video with another Eastcoaster and they both croaked and croaked. I think it is supposed to afford gravitas they feel is missing from "normal" higher pitched female voice. I took it for Ivy League affectation but now it has spread.

Abramson below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldk2wlophS0&feature=related

MayBee said...

Is it the same thing Obama does when he's trying to put focus on a word? He does something I'd call grinding.

Mark B said...

Jill Abrahamson was the first and is still the worst. I just ran into this by Michelle Fields linked on Powerline just now. It is not as bad as Jill, and she never says, "sort of" which is another marker for ... whatever...whatever...it is that I don't like about our "elite" -educated class. OTOH michelle has a solid message, and is easy on the eyes. Enjoy! Sort of. http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2011/12/myths-of-the-new-deal.php#more-33032

grgeil said...

I notice my nieces and their teenage girl friend talking in a manner that sounds like they are trying to talk while holding their breath. It produces a weak, strained tone. Perhaps its part of the same vocal pattern.

DADvocate said...

It was called glottal fry in my college speech class. I can do it really well. It's good for a laugh sometimes.

Anyone imitating Britney Spears needs psychiatric care.

Freeman Hunt said...

Heh. I was around a lot of college students recently. Fun to know what that's called now.

Many times it was combined with the interrogatory statement.

But that's okay. It's interesting as far as identification goes, but I don't have any desire to pick on a common way that women talk. I assume it's the result of pop culture.

xnar said...

OMG! John Hinderaker just posted a video link "Myths of the New Deal" where the babe does the vocal fry for six whole minutes.

Gag me.

xnar said...

http://www.powerlineblog.com/

Video: Myths of the new deal.

Paco Wové said...

"It's not as bad as the interrogatory statement"

I hear more and more young men doing it, too. <shudder>

I blame estrogens in the water supply...

Jason (the commenter) said...

Everyone wants to be Fran Drescher.

MayBee said...

Obama does it a little bit here on the word "fighting" (about 7 seconds in), but he frequently does a whole series using the vocal fry.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gVxBoC0Ixk&feature=relmfu

wild chicken said...

That's the way Henry Kissinger talked, just total fry all the time. I think men do that to sound like they have deeper voices.

And female uptalk..it just won't die out here in flyover, especially among the bureaucratic class.

Schorsch said...

It has a name! Most of the women at my University adopt this affectation. I interpret it as a way to sound indifferent to everything. Which is why it's horrid that it's creeping into the speech of NPR correspondents. I had assumed they would have some quality control there.

bagoh20 said...

Hell, they made a whole movie about it. It's really quite evil.


AAAAAAAAAA

bagoh20 said...

The Althouse blog - for when you just can't quite think of anything to bitch about today.

There should be an app for that.

glenn said...

Once in a while a woman sounds sexy croaking like a frog. Girls never.

Freeman Hunt said...

Which is why it's horrid that it's creeping into the speech of NPR correspondents.

I thought they'd always been doing that. That and some kind of hypno, you're-hip-if-you-can-listen-without-sleeping voice.

rcommal said...

baby, baby, baby. baby, baby, baby.

oops, i did it again.

rcommal said...

I recall marking that back when that song first hit the pop zeitgeist, specifically in terms of an in-law who was enjoying her then 7-year-old's dancing and singing to that.

Heh.

rcommal said...

It's not as bad as the interrogatory statement

(I'm Patty? From Vancouver?)


That, too.

But it's not just a "girl" thing. The boys do it, too, now, and they have for a while.

J said...

Vibrations...young women...low creaky..... Whoa. Enough of the Hitchens death watch.

The current pop-gals don't really sing. Creak is correct. or mewl.

Fiona Apple could sing

AprilApple said...

Spears has no talent.

rcommal said...

Due respect due, Freeman, they didn't--even they, if you prefer, but still, they didn't.

Dad29 said...

@Mark B:

She models that 'fry' very well, but obviously never had a speech-coach, as the last phrase of almost every sentence disappears--volume-wise.

So the first part is a growl, the last part is gone, and who knows what the speech was all about?

Clearly, the part was cast on assets not related to rhetoric.

rcommal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freeman Hunt said...

If they're all doing it, maybe the rest of us are the ones who sound odd.

rcommal said...

Funnily enough, at the time, bits of Britney's performance--the lower-scaledm female voicings--reminded me of Cher in her "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" era--which seemed so ironic, to me, then (and now, to a point), given that Cher herself so helped popularize the whole autotune thing as a value in and of itself with that abomination known as "Believe" (remember that one? serious critics, pro or con, of the technology and trend ought). LOL. She used it to seem higher and younger. Other used it to seem lower and older.

Well, what else could have been expected?

rcommal said...

lower-scaledm = lower-scaled,

damn it!

J said...

that's not quite it, Miss Hunt. Porno, Inc runs the rock-pop biz (serio), and the singers need to sound like well...it's the money shot--the Big O! At least Britney's faking it good. Madonna started it (tho' like Janis Joplin before her)

J said...

yo byro-commal-theatre queer of Sac. Your "rccommal" fraud has been traced as well. Sorta like ...your old days at Brawleys, with ..Prem? Or was it... Billy. Heh heh

(it's stalking women here as well)

rcommal said...

I thought they'd always been doing that.

Due respect due to you, Freeman, but they didn't always do that. Not even NPR "they's".

pbAndjFellowRepublican said...

"The Althouse blog - for when you just can't quite think of anything to bitch about today."


My theory is that tube-griping is cathartic for Althouse.

The steady stream of get-off-my-lawnism projected at this blog results in an entirely pleasant non-tube version of Althouse.

pbAndjFellowRepublican said...

Also, Althouse has a reoccurring beef w/ younger gals.

Just sayin'

rcommal said...

OTOH, another way to view this whole thing is to contemplate ohmyg-AH-uh-D!!! this, an update of a version of, it's true, an era closer to my own youth.

rcommal said...

LOL. Don't care, J. Carry on.

R,

L

Astro said...

It's an attempt to create a 'smoky', sexy sounding voice. For a few women it sounds natural, for most it sounds forced like they are trying too hard. Wannabees.
As Indigo Red pointed out, Lauren Bacall first used that voice years ago. When she was young it added to her appeal; now it just makes her sound like a hag.

rcommal said...

If they're all doing it, maybe the rest of us are the ones who sound odd.

True, that, no doubt!

Jim Lindgren said...

Here is a great example of creaky voice -- Michelle Fields exploding myths about the Great Depression:

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2011/12/myths-of-the-new-deal.php

It's an interesting video as well.

Jim Lindgren

David said...

Schorsch said...
" . . . . I interpret it as a way to sound indifferent to everything."

I think you are correct.

Kirk Parker said...

xnar,

Forget gagging, fry me!

That was truly quite painful to listen to. I gave myself 30 seconds...

Whenever I hear someone talking like this, it's all I can do to keep myself from shouting out, "Breathe, dammit!!!!"

phx said...

Is this that oops argument redux?

phx said...

We've had more Britney Spears posts than Bob Dylan. I shit you not.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rduigENzHo

First Ron Paul, then Bill Kristol in this clip from 2007.

Jim Pinkerton too.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Kate Hepburn, and Kate Hepburn impersonations.

http://www.hulu.com/watch/116578/saturday-night-live-vincent-price-christmas

rcommal said...

Aw, hell, maybe in the end it's all supposed to converge here, or some version thereof, if not one of the ones that's already existed since the very end of the 1800s, then maybe another, recently written but yet unknown, or maybe one yet to be written.

Paddy O said...

"It's an attempt to create a 'smoky', sexy sounding voice"

Eva Green has that down.

Palladian said...

As a college teacher, I hear absolutely terrible speech patterns, intonations and, of course, grammar, every day. As I'm not a speech teacher, I feel it's not my business to critique such things, but it's often excruciating.

" Everyone wants to be Fran Drescher."

Or Fran Lebowitz.

Ralph L said...

Jill Abramson always reminds me of Patrick's fiance in Auntie Mame.

rcommal said...

Link, damn it! LOL. ; ) See Gloria Upson, of course.

wv: table

As in, put in on there.

Ralph L said...

How could I have forgotten Upson Downs? And dacquiris with honey?

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

" Everyone wants to be Fran Drescher."

Or Fran Lebowitz.


But never Fawn Lebowitz. I guess it must be the kiln explsions....

Philip said...

I think ranting against linguistic trends is like raging at the moon for rising. I can just imagine the 14th century Althouses in England (let's assume they came from England) complaining about how the kids just don't pronounce their vowels properly: "they pronounced feet like /fit/". Get over it, the language changes.

Joe said...

So, the study in question didn't actually examine the increased prevalence of this and yet that is the claim of the headline. This is yet another non-story.

Joe said...

Put another way, this is one of those things that nobody noticed much until attention was drawn to it. It grates at some people, but so do a lot of speech patterns. Rising inflections at the end of non-questions irritates me as do affected accents, especially "southern belle." And adults doing baby talk--that is cause for strangulation.

Lem said...

As a kid, whenever I wanted to sound like a zombie I would exagerate this vocal pattern.

Amartel said...

I like the vocal fry. It sounds normal to me. Surrounded by it.

I nominate the "chagrin voice" for worst recently developed vocal mannerism. It's usually female and shows up in ads to convey fake embarassment on the part of the speaker. Like, oh no I bought the wrong product/"let" the husband do the laundry/etc. (See, e.g., the Angie's List ads where the plumber "has to" walk her dog.) Less but still annoying is the "smile voice" (where even if you don't see the speaker you can hear him smiling) (http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/01/03/smile-communication.html).