Vocal Fry with UptalkOct 20, 2023
Kissinger and Kardashian
Anyone of my age remembers Henry Kissinger. He was known for his shuttle diplomacy, and was always all over the news. And he had the most annoying speaking voice ever – gravelly! It almost hurt to listen for more than a few minutes.
Years go by and now we have Kim Kardashian and her gravelly voice. And I’ve come to learn there is a technical term for it – vocal fry. I’ve done a little research, and apparently vocal fry can come quite naturally to the speaker, as with Kissinger, or be an affectation, as with Kardashian. It doesn’t hurt the vocal chords in any way, but it’s annoying as hell.
Lately, the speech fashion among young people, particularly young women, is vocal fry with uptalk. This is the habit of ending one’s sentences with a vocal upswing. Here’s an example: Friend runs into another friend at a laundromat. Friend asks: What are you doing? Other friend answers, my laundry? With an upswing on laundry.
Where did uptalk come from?
Some sources I’ve read seem to think the source of this speech habit comes from the time of the valley girls in Los Angeles. Remember Frank Zappa? Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. He had a daughter named Moon Unit (I kid you not) who had a hit single called Valley Girls in 1982. If you can bear listening, here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFVxbUucwn0.
So now we have vocal fry with uptalk – a fully affected speech pattern. If you want to watch a really clever video about this, watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDfJn1kcQuU . Credit to Shervin Safineh.
You can change your accent!
Personally, I find many regional accents interesting and sort of charming. Some are not. A deep Brooklyn accent is as jarring to me as a cockney from London. I never knew how strong a New York accent I had till moving to the Jacksonville area. So I worked at mitigating it. Cwoffee is now coffee. Dwog is now dog. Any news broadcaster has had lessons in losing his or her accent. One can rarely detect any regional accents in a news presenter with a national audience. Same in England - there’s the BBC accent – called RP for received pronunciation, and countless regional accents just as we have here.
Anyway – here’s some advice to young people out interviewing for a job. If you use vocal fry with uptalk, you’re going to sound like a total twit to man of my age. No matter how strong your education and work credentials, you may be shooting yourself in the foot by not presenting yourself as a serious candidate who is willing to learn and work hard. Give it some thought. Speak however you like amongst your contemporaries, but default to Standard English in the workplace.
Best to all,
--Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®
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