January 3, 2015

The best of vocal fry.



Don't take the poll without watching the video!

Vocal fry — yes, no, maybe?
 
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ADDED: My original post on this subject came in 2007: "Voice lessons":
Lately, I've noticed a lot of young women speaking in a strangled voice that seems to be produced by a laborious effort to bypass the larynx altogether. They sound as if they are damaging their throats. Are you noticing this trend? Can you tell me how it got started? Is there some celebrity they are imitating? It sounds a little Winona Ryder to me, but there must be some stronger role models affecting young women. Also, is there some way to get them to stop? It is worse than Valley Girl intonation.
The first comment was: "This is a very strange observation. Do you have a link so that we can hear this strange vocal pattern?" And I said: "Sorry, I'm just overhearing it in public places. It's driving me crazy. I feel like walking up to strangers and telling them to cut it out." (Then there were some updates, with clips, and some expert opinion informing me that this was called "creaky voice... laryngealisation, pulse phonation or, in singing, vocal fry or glottal fry.")

43 comments:

Bob Boyd said...

Its just another tool in the toolbox.

Ron said...

vocal fry...fried cheese curds...what's next jalapeno poppers?

Ann Althouse said...

@Ron

Oh, yeah. Good point. I've got a trend going in the last 2 posts.

Not on the same day though, so it's not a candidate for the tag "the blog has a theme today."

rhhardin said...

It's to get the authority of a man's voice instead of the child-like authority of a woman's.

It's a cargo-cult thing. They think the voice must be the difference.

Get the voice right and brains will follow.

Laslo Spatula said...

The video won't work for me, so I just see the still-frame of the half-lidded chipmunk-toothed Miley Cyrus. It is the longest I have looked at a picture of Miley Cyrus that didn't involve her naked breasts.

I am Laslo.

Anonymous said...

Fun, but Anne's vid missed the Queen of Vocal Fry, the ex-timesman Jill Abramson: http://gawker.com/5888935/nyt-piece-on-vocal-fry-linguistic-trend-fails-to-mention-biggest-vocal-fryer-of-them-all
You'd think Jill works for Iowahawk!

Ann Althouse said...

"It's to get the authority of a man's voice instead of the child-like authority of a woman's."

I know it ends up at the male pitch level, but it sounds childish, so if you're right about the goal, it's a complete failure.

I think you're wrong. I think the urge is toward reducing authority and making oneself sweet and diminutive. Look at the collection of examples in that video. Clearly, these are all actresses going coy/cute/sweet. It's not masculine at all, other than the pitch.

What does this say about what women think is attractive? And if any men find this attractive, what's going on there?

Laslo Spatula said...

They should make a video of topless women exhibiting vocal fry. I bet the breasts vibrate a little. This is called Science.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

"And if any men find this attractive, what's going on there?"

It relates to early sexual experiences where the girl with you drops to a lower tone so the parents down the hall don't wake up. Conspiracy is naughty.

I am Laslo.

JHapp said...

Tea Leoni in 'Flying Blind' is the sexiest voice for an actress ever.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

T'were it my wish I could make an argument the girls are trying to mimic Mr. Potter (Drew's grandpappy btw) in It's a Wonderful Life as well as the s*^#heel Ted f#%**€# Turner. Turner was giving an interview years ago, maybe a decade or more, about North Korea saying he met the dictator and he "just like anybody else." Or something close to that. Either way, mixed in with the Commie agitprop was this horrible noise emanating from his mouth like the sound a s**^+y old car makes when it stalls out and you pull off the interstate to the side of the road, going over the etches in the concrete which ostensibly let you know when you are over the line.

Pete from Baltimore said...

Ive noticed that speech pattern. But never was able to put a name to it

Its not a speech pattern of "Younger women", as much as its a speech pattern used by many middle to upper -middle class white women. Just look at the women in the video

And I have to wonder if its a result of reality tv. So many younger people nowdays seem to be acting as if they are being filmed. And their mannerisms seemed staged

Obviously im not talking about all younger people. But I do think that more than a few younger people have picked up mannerisms and speech patterns from tv.Espeically reality tv

I was born in 1969.and during the 1970s and 80s, tv was something that people sometimes watched.

Whereas nowdays its the constant background noise for the younger generation. Nobody in the 1970s or 80s tried to act like Jack Tripper or Felix Unger, in real life.But by the 1990s, many women wanted to look and be like Jennifer Aniston

Laslo Spatula said...

Has a teenage boy ever heard the words "okay, you can put it in just a little" WITHOUT vocal fry?


I am Laslo.

Pete from Baltimore said...

Most women will readily admit, that they don't dress up to impress men. They dress up to impress other women. Maybe its the same with speech patterns.

Its worth noting that in the video, the women using the "vocal fry" were all talking to other women

Eleanor said...

If you go back in time a bit, women whose voices were considered sexy were often lower pitched and a bit gravely - like Lauren Bacall and Bette Davis. A lot of actresses work on making their voices sexier. Kathleen Turner was interviewed after she did the voice of Jessica Rabbit. She talked about cultivating a sexy voice when she went into acting. Jackie Kennedy's "First Lady voice" is about as natural as Marilyn Monroe's hair.

richlb said...

Is that an S-bomb dropped by the second woman in the clips? Did that air on the Today Show unedited?

Carol said...

To repeat, I blame Henry Kissinger. He always talked like this. I think it was to sound more macho than he really was.

Skyler said...

Frankly anything a pretty girl does can be sexy. Anything a fat and ugly girl does can be gross.

But on the radio you can't see the girl and the fry doesn't bother me as much as up talking. That is the sound of stupid. I'm hearing it more and more from professional women.

traditionalguy said...

It is a twofer grab for conversation control.

Social rules says to wait for person speaking to end a sentence before jumping in. So the person speaking just never ends the sentence by extending the sound of the final word until another sentence can begin.

Plus the innocent child voice is a trump card over all. No one criticizes an innocent child...even one using authority.

MathMom said...

After watching this vid, I realize I speak with vocal fry. But I have a cold. My friend used to call this my "whiskey and cigarettes voice".

I am also a contralto, so am accustomed to being called Sir.

MathMom said...

Anonymous @ 7:57 am -

Re Jill Abramson - I can see why she is a print editor, not a vocal coach. I have heard robots with better inflection and warmth. Nearly dozed off before I heard her vocal fry.

chillblaine said...

In the first example, the actress says she "sounds like a sexy baby." That adult woman baby-talk is a marker of childhood trauma in a crucial developmental phase, according to my wife. The subsequent examples are much different. I will hold my opinion on this critical cultural topic until Lena tells me what to think.

acm said...

Nobody in the 70s or 80s tried to be like Jack Tripper...

---

There were definitely people trying to be Fonzie in the 70s and Don Johnson in the 80s. People were attempting to look and act like celebrities before TVs were even in every household.

tim in vermont said...

Tea Leoni in 'Flying Blind' is the sexiest voice for an actress ever.

Well that's great, because her voice playing Hillary in that series is the unsexiest voice for an actress ever.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

I have always theorized that Jackie Kennedy's "First Lady voice" was due to regular consumption of Milltown.

virgil xenophon said...

My take on "verbal fry" is that it's an attempt to sound hip--a "cooler than thou" "more sophisticated, intelligent" personna..

YMMV

John Lynch said...

I know someone whose voice has always been like this, since childhood. I guess she was doing it before it was cool.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I'm from SoCAL, so this has been around a long, long time for me. I don't particularly like it, but it is the average accent and you have to fight to not develop it.

(My greater family is from CT/MA and they've got their own related "unattractive" nasal inflections they have trouble fighting.)

It's the opposite of trying to bypass your larynx, IMO; it's a matter of too much tension in the throat and not letting the air come up from your diaphragm. IOW, the high and low, sing-song, "sexy baby" inflections can be added, if you wish, without the fry. They aren't synonymous.

Anonymous said...

Jill Abramson eats all these poseurs for breakfast.

About sec 33 or so makes me wonder if she isn't having a stroke on camera or isn't part of some comedy bit:

This joooooob

Anonymous said...

Lord, I'm not good at blogger-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldk2wlophS0

Anonymous said...

Third time's a charm

CatherineM said...

Chrisnavin - fanastic. Abrhamson has the fryiest vocal fry. Then perhaps it is a "sound rich" thing. Like Larchmont Lockjaw. Aaaaaahhhh waaaaahhh.

I learned Val speak in jr high. I have noticed a lot of Southerners lose their accent in college. Perhaps a lot of these frying women do the same thing in college, subconciously to fit in.

CatherineM said...

What I have noticed since the late 90s is women playing with their hair when they talk even in office settings. Twisting or constantly petting it. Not something women my age or older ever did so this also must be a learned thing.

YoungHegelian said...

There is a relatively new female announcer on NPR who speaks not only with fry but ends her sentences on an up tone.

You hear it over & over in the course of a day, and, by the end of it, you want to take hostages.

It ranks up there with BBC World interviewing folks with unintelligible third-world accents speaking on cell phones as a grating radio experience.

Mary Beth said...

Everything I see about vocal fry talks about young women. Isn't that what's going on in the song Fireball and Existentialism on Prom Night ("you would, you would")?

Anonymous said...

Catherine-Abramson takes it to 11, but in an Upper West Side kind of way.

My hack theory: Women are often more susceptible to subtle changes in look, dress, speech etc. and centers of cultural influence like So Cal and NYC were unsurprising early adopters and producers of the vocal fry affect.

Maybe, like, there's a kind of like, democratizing, populist influence on women with some kind of, you know, authority and power, to reject aspects of like ALL traditional authority but also adopt such a rather girlish, immature speech pattern to show they're like, part of the sisterhood and what's cool.

Like, you know what I mean?

But they still have to maintain their moral authority, so in Upper West-siders, old Boston money, the political class in D.C etc. you have a necessary stiffness, air of moral superiority grudging acceptance of the trend.

I'm thinking maybe Hillary Clinton, instead of speechifying at a Sojourner Truth memorial in a hackneyed, wooden accent, starts a twerking foundation for inner city-girls and women of the 21st century (anything to allow her destiny of becoming President).

CatherineM said...

Chrisnavin: Hillary adopted a Southern accent in 92, http://youtu.be/lwXE52e9JFg starting about 3:20 is Hillary. Of course she does the same today in blck churches, but as First Lady of AK she was Southern. She lost it quickly in DC y'all.

You maybe on to something. I admit I adopted Val speak, because, like, that was like, what we did. I stopped, like, saying like, like when I became, like, an adult. :).

PS I had a social studies teacher in 8th grade lose it after the millionth like, oral report full of "likes". Drove him nuts and he went on a rant, but we all blamed his rant on his being a Vietnam vet.

jaed said...

It's to get the authority of a man's voice instead of the child-like authority of a woman's.

A silly comment. No woman has ever, when giving an order to her child, adopted vocal fry in order to sound authoritative. None.

Vocal fry sounds childlike, if anything.

Anonymous said...

Catherine,

Anybody who deals daily with the barrage of hormones, group-think, gossip and attitude found in most 8th-graders deserves a nod.

What a difficult joooooooobbb.

CatherineM said...

Chrisnavin - she turns door into a two syllable word "open doh-orrrrrr policy...crise-eeeeease." Ugh.

My poor teacher. I just remember we were all discussing afterwards why he was so irritable that day and we blamed it on Vietnam flashbacks. Couldn't be us angels.

George said...

I think most of the young female NPR reporters are afflicted with this pox.

Anonymous said...

Bette r than up talk, though.