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Old 03-03-2012, 04:56 PM
ThelmaLou ThelmaLou is offline
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Vocal Fry- Can we please make it against the law?

I'm hearing it a lot on the radio, and Melissa Block of NPR's "All Things Considered" is one of the worst offenders. I makes me grind my teeth and want to drive my car into a telephone pole.
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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. Vocal fry, or glottalization, is a low, staccato vibration during speech, produced by a slow fluttering of the vocal cords. MORE
I say we go back to calling it a speech disorder and send people to therapy for it.
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Old 03-03-2012, 04:59 PM
Acid Lamp Acid Lamp is offline
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No. Some of us just have gravelly voices. I agree it does sound odd when women do it excessively though.
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Old 03-03-2012, 05:06 PM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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I've also heard it described as creaky voice. The Olson Twins do it.
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Old 03-03-2012, 05:08 PM
Rhythmdvl Rhythmdvl is offline
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I think Fry should give up singing and stick with his holophonor lessons.
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Old 03-03-2012, 05:15 PM
ThelmaLou ThelmaLou is offline
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Originally Posted by Acid Lamp View Post
No. Some of us just have gravelly voices. I agree it does sound odd when women do it excessively though.
If your voice is naturally gravelly, more power to you. You're not who I'm talking about. I'm talking about young women who do it deliberately.
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Old 03-03-2012, 05:33 PM
elfkin477 elfkin477 is offline
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Um... some youtube examples of people actually speaking this way? The only person I've heard that sounds anything like this explanation mp3 was some actress from before my parents were born, not something I associate with young women.
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Old 03-03-2012, 05:35 PM
MsWhich MsWhich is offline
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There's a pretty good example here.

Edit: Even better example. This one is someone doing an exaggerated version for effect, but it makes it easier to understand what she's referring to.

Last edited by MsWhich; 03-03-2012 at 05:36 PM.
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Old 03-03-2012, 05:37 PM
Becky2844 Becky2844 is offline
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Is it that sort of low, strained voice that I think of as "valley girl talk?" If so, I hate it. Hate hate hate it.
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Old 03-03-2012, 06:03 PM
Inner Stickler Inner Stickler is offline
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Languagelog had a post on this a while ago. Their conclusion? It's not a new thing by any means, moderate use is unlikely to be damaging and there haven't been enough studies with far-ranging enough populations to say whether it's increased in the young female demographic.

My opinion? It's a thing that people do and calling attention to it like this is just going to embarrass people who didn't realize they're doing it and encourage others to increase their use of it, just to annoy you.
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Old 03-03-2012, 06:22 PM
guizot guizot is offline
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Originally Posted by Becky2844 View Post
Is it that sort of low, strained voice that I think of as "valley girl talk?" If so, I hate it. Hate hate hate it.
My personal theory is that the increasing use of vocal fry was kind of natural counterpoint to uptalk, (which also is considered to have "valley talk" origins, though I kind of disagree). This is because rising intonation traditionally indicated uncertainty, so the vocal fry came into use more and more in order to counteract that. It strives create an illusion of authority.
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Old 03-03-2012, 06:31 PM
Kenm Kenm is offline
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Mae West was a practitioner. Apparently it peeled her a lot of grapes.
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Old 03-03-2012, 07:00 PM
Tim R. Mortiss Tim R. Mortiss is offline
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Listening to that "even better example," I couldn't help but think of Amber (aka Cutthroat Bitch) from House, MD.
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Old 03-03-2012, 09:21 PM
kirk1168 kirk1168 is offline
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Originally Posted by guizot View Post
My personal theory is that the increasing use of vocal fry was kind of natural counterpoint to uptalk, (which also is considered to have "valley talk" origins, though I kind of disagree). This is because rising intonation traditionally indicated uncertainty, so the vocal fry came into use more and more in order to counteract that. It strives create an illusion of authority.
I find vocal fry much less annoying than uptalk.
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Old 03-03-2012, 09:43 PM
hajario hajario is offline
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Yet another thing that I never noticed before that will, now that I am aware of it, annoy the hell out of me.

Thanks.

Last edited by hajario; 03-03-2012 at 09:43 PM.
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Old 03-03-2012, 09:57 PM
hajario hajario is offline
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Yet another thing that I never noticed before that will, now that I am aware of it, annoy the hell out of me.

Thanks.
I just heard the first example of it on TV.
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Old 03-03-2012, 10:09 PM
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I've heard "vocal fry" for years. I think it's also called "creaky voice". Like uptalk, I always thought of it as a West Coast thing.
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Old 03-03-2012, 10:33 PM
kaylasdad99 kaylasdad99 is online now
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Is that what Jessica Simpson is always doing that makes her sound like she's trying to give the effect of singing from her bed and inviting you in?
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Old 03-04-2012, 02:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ThelmaLou View Post
I'm hearing it a lot on the radio, and Melissa Block of NPR's "All Things Considered" is one of the worst offenders. I makes me grind my teeth and want to drive my car into a telephone pole.


I say we go back to calling it a speech disorder and send people to therapy for it.
Opinion I heard from a doctor many years ago: Being a teenager is a disease.
Fortunately, it tends to be what they call a "self-limiting" disease.

This is good news, since no effective therapy is known.
"Valley girl" speech disorders may simply be but one symptom.
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Old 03-04-2012, 03:26 AM
Inner Stickler Inner Stickler is offline
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Originally Posted by kirk1168 View Post
I find vocal fry much less annoying than uptalk.
I once had a spanish class with a girl who valleygirled her spanish. I'm pretty laissez faire about speech patterns and even I wanted to slap her after a classworth of it.
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Old 03-04-2012, 06:36 AM
HMS Irruncible HMS Irruncible is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guizot View Post
My personal theory is that the increasing use of vocal fry was kind of natural counterpoint to uptalk, (which also is considered to have "valley talk" origins, though I kind of disagree). This is because rising intonation traditionally indicated uncertainty, so the vocal fry came into use more and more in order to counteract that. It strives create an illusion of authority.
Do you really think anyone consciously changes their speech pattern to seem more or less authoritative? When women fry the trailing end of their sentences, they sound like diffident teenagers with quaking knees reading a book report in front of the class.

I agree it's related to uptalk, sans the BS psychoanalysis. It's just what young girls do because a lot of other young girls do it. In 15 years it will be something else, and someone will be characterizing it as a function of their confidence (or lack thereof).
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Old 03-04-2012, 07:13 AM
kanicbird kanicbird is offline
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It does add more definition to speech, it helps convey meaning beyond what just the words alone can do. It that so bad for society that we need to force girls to undergo intensive therapy and discipline to prevent it from becoming mainstream? It is bad that the spoken word can contain more meaning then the written?
  #22  
Old 03-04-2012, 08:28 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marissa Fessenden, via ThelmaLou View Post
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.
Curiously, nobody complained about this twenty years ago when singers such as Kurt Cobain were doing this (even to excess, in songs such as Lounge Act and Moist Vagina), but now that Britney Spears is doing it, suddenly it's a horrible epidemic?
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Old 03-04-2012, 08:34 AM
Ludovic Ludovic is online now
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I don't complain about Britney Spears doing it mainly because I never listen to Britney Spears.

Last edited by Ludovic; 03-04-2012 at 08:34 AM.
  #24  
Old 03-04-2012, 09:12 AM
Half Man Half Wit Half Man Half Wit is offline
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Sounds a little like the 'Grudge' sound...
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Old 03-04-2012, 10:03 AM
guizot guizot is offline
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Originally Posted by Cosmic Relief View Post
Do you really think anyone consciously changes their speech pattern to seem more or less authoritative?
No, not consciously. Although I think "authoritative" probably isn't the best word--maybe "more weighty" or "more presumptive" are better ways to describe it. There are other ways that they do this (expressions such as whatever, as if, and so on).
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Old 03-04-2012, 10:14 AM
TonySinclair TonySinclair is offline
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Do you really think anyone consciously changes their speech pattern to seem more or less authoritative?
Yes. A LOT of women reporters pitch their voice as low as they can, evidently because they think it makes them sound more serious. It's annoying enough when they stay within their natural limits, and I can't stand it when they go beyond them, and start growling. I've pretty much stopped listening to Amy Goodman for exactly that reason.

And it's not just women. I'm looking at you, Henry Kissinger.
  #27  
Old 03-04-2012, 01:14 PM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Is this Vocal Fry thing what Richard Burton was doing?

http://youtu.be/uuPO2Kvqlms?t=6s
  #28  
Old 03-04-2012, 01:32 PM
heathen earthling heathen earthling is offline
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Originally Posted by MsWhatsit View Post
Edit: Even better example. This one is someone doing an exaggerated version for effect, but it makes it easier to understand what she's referring to.
This is confusing to me, because she seems to be mixing the vocal fry with other annoying vocal affectations in her demonstration of it. The voice she does sounds a bit like the cartoon character Lumpy Space Princess, but LSP's voice doesn't have the vocal fry vibrations in it. Do people ever do the vocal fry on their normal voices without any other effects?
  #29  
Old 03-04-2012, 02:02 PM
SciFiSam SciFiSam is offline
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Is this Vocal Fry thing what Richard Burton was doing?

http://youtu.be/uuPO2Kvqlms?t=6s
That just sounds to me like a deep voice that occasionally - a few words in the whole recording there - goes a bit gravelly. The Vocal Fry thing is people who naturally have a higher-pitched voice going much deeper and gravelly for effect.

I'd forgotten what a gorgeous voice Richard Burton had.
  #30  
Old 03-04-2012, 02:08 PM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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I've been noticing it in young women for several years, especially as noted at the trailing end of an utterance. It makes me curious: Why is it such a young-woman phenomenon? My daughters have picked it up (but just a little).
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Old 03-04-2012, 02:16 PM
Lamia Lamia is offline
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I've been noticing it in young women for several years, especially as noted at the trailing end of an utterance. It makes me curious: Why is it such a young-woman phenomenon? My daughters have picked it up (but just a little).
I saw a story about vocal fry in the New York Times the other day, and it quoted linguistic experts as saying that new vocal trends (unsurprisingly) tend to originate/spread faster among young people, and also that women tend to adapt the new trends earlier than men. This means one can generally expect young women to be the earliest adapters of a new vocal trend.
  #32  
Old 03-04-2012, 02:57 PM
ThelmaLou ThelmaLou is offline
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No, not what Richard Burton did. That was just his yummy voice. What I'm talking about is a current practice of women, especially young women. A fad. Like valleygirl-speak was for a while.
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Old 03-04-2012, 09:16 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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If we're gonna make anything against the law, I'd love to make frivolous judgment of other folks' linguistic and vocal patterns against the law. It invariably comes across as a status-fight to me, folks saying, "Me, I'm so secure in who I am that I don't need to do those things that those insecure people do, see how secure I am? I mock them!" Blech.

Failing that, however, I'd like to register my opposition to the Great Vowel Shift.
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Last edited by Left Hand of Dorkness; 03-04-2012 at 09:17 PM.
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Old 03-04-2012, 09:33 PM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Whan in Aprill, with his showrs soote the droghte of March has perced to the roote and bathed every vein in switch licour ....
  #35  
Old 03-04-2012, 11:29 PM
Doug K. Doug K. is offline
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I started noticing (and being bugged by) this in the mid 90s. At first I mostly heard it from teenage girls. I always thought of it as The Gene Pitney Growl.
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Old 03-05-2012, 12:15 AM
Angel of the Lord Angel of the Lord is offline
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I had no idea that I did this, but listening to podcasts I recorded about three years ago? Oh yes. I totally do. Didn't even know that I was. Attributing it to pop singers is kind of dumb, though--I've never really listened to them. But I'm a 28 year-old female, and I totally do it.
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Old 03-05-2012, 01:22 AM
amarinth amarinth is offline
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Huh - I've never heard of it as a "thing" before, but I do that.

And actually, I tend to do it more often when I don't want attention, but for some reason find myself speaking when I have nothing to say. It's a slightly more audible mutter.

It's completely different than "Valley Girl" speak, which is high, at the top of the mouth (practically nasal, in fact), and frequently has a ton of upspeak. When I do this, it's low and in the back and base of my throat. Just because "valley" is an annoying affectation, doesn't make every annoying affectation "valley girl"
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Old 03-05-2012, 06:51 AM
ThelmaLou ThelmaLou is offline
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The way that vocal fry and valley girl speak are alike is that they're both affectations. No one is saying they SOUND the same.
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Old 03-05-2012, 07:00 AM
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I'm more irritated by the opposite effect - women talking in a falsetto voice.
  #40  
Old 03-05-2012, 09:59 AM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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FWIW, part of my advice to beginning teachers might encourage vocal fry. Classroom management is really stressful, especially when you're beginning your career, and when you get stressed, your muscles tense, and for a lot of people, this means your throat tenses, and that stretches your vocal cords, causing your vocal pitch to rise. At the same time, people often talk faster and faster when they get stressed.

A high voice going at top speed tends to express agitation. When you're in charge of a classroom that's already a bit out of control, the last thing you want to do is to add a loud, agitated voice to the mix: it just exacerbates the problem, makes everything spiral even farther out of control.

So I tell new teachers to watch for this. Instead of going loud, fast, and squeaky, you want to take a deep breath to relax those vocal cords, and then go quiet, slow, and deep. (And a bit menacing). Instead of communicating excitement, you communicate calm and control; folks have to listen carefully to hear you, and the menace gives them a reason to listen; the low voice, sometimes almost a growl, is very often almost hypnotic.

It's totally counterintuitive, as are many parts of classroom management, but in my experience the low-slow-soft approach works much, much better than the intuitive high-fast-loud approach does. And if this leads to vocal fry, who on earth could be bothered to care?
  #41  
Old 03-05-2012, 12:09 PM
cjepson cjepson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
If we're gonna make anything against the law, I'd love to make frivolous judgment of other folks' linguistic and vocal patterns against the law. It invariably comes across as a status-fight to me, folks saying, "Me, I'm so secure in who I am that I don't need to do those things that those insecure people do, see how secure I am? I mock them!" Blech.
You may be right, and yet somehow, I can't help it -- vocal fry is just like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. It's like a visceral reaction I have.
  #42  
Old 03-05-2012, 12:14 PM
ThelmaLou ThelmaLou is offline
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You may be right, and yet somehow, I can't help it -- vocal fry is just like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. It's like a visceral reaction I have.
Ab-so-freakin'-lutely.
  #43  
Old 03-05-2012, 03:09 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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You may be right, and yet somehow, I can't help it -- vocal fry is just like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. It's like a visceral reaction I have.
Hmm...I'm still skeptical. There's a certain aspect of our culture in which people form their identity in a Princess-and-the-Pea fashion, in which they take pride in being irritated by things. Fingernails on a chalkboard is a pretty universal response. This response to vocal fry? Maybe it's similar, but the fact that it's something young women get snarked at for, along with the pseudopsychological evaluations of why the young women are doing it, makes me think it's a Princess-and-the-Pea situation, not a nails-on-a-chalkboard situation.

I could, of course, be totally wrong, in which case I'm guilty of exactly what I think y'all are guilty of.

Last edited by Left Hand of Dorkness; 03-05-2012 at 03:10 PM.
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Old 03-05-2012, 03:11 PM
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Is it that sort of low, strained voice that I think of as "valley girl talk?" If so, I hate it. Hate hate hate it.
Sure sounds like it to me. When was that EVER attractive?
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Old 03-05-2012, 04:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
Hmm...I'm still skeptical. There's a certain aspect of our culture in which people form their identity in a Princess-and-the-Pea fashion, in which they take pride in being irritated by things. Fingernails on a chalkboard is a pretty universal response. This response to vocal fry? Maybe it's similar, but the fact that it's something young women get snarked at for, along with the pseudopsychological evaluations of why the young women are doing it, makes me think it's a Princess-and-the-Pea situation, not a nails-on-a-chalkboard situation.

I could, of course, be totally wrong, in which case I'm guilty of exactly what I think y'all are guilty of.
No, I think this is a complex area. There are certain things that grate on me, and sometimes when I get called on it, I find it surprisingly hard to articulate why they grate on me. Is it a snobbishness that operates at such a deep level that I'm not even aware of it? And to make things more complex, where's the line between snobbishness and plain personal taste? Clearly it's human nature to like certain things and dislike others. If I dislike Wonder bread, is it because I'm an elitist or is it just that I prefer more texture? Or both?

Not giving any real answers here... just meandering.
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Old 03-05-2012, 05:27 PM
ThelmaLou ThelmaLou is offline
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For me, it's not what the vocal affectation means or why girls do it or whether it's a status thing or whatever... it's the sound itself. Like the Kit-Kat commercial where everyone is crunching. As soon as it comes on, I hit the mute button.
  #47  
Old 03-06-2012, 06:28 AM
choie choie is offline
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Unfortunately, I do this. For me it has nothing to do with imitating others and everything to do with being an inhibited and shy person with low self-esteem who sort of... wants to swallow everything I say because I'm afraid of being heard. I judge every word out of my mouth, and sometimes if I notice I'm talking for too long a time, I start kinda shutting down and swallowing the words (that's really the only way I can describe it) as if to apologize for speaking.

As in that "extreme" video mentioned above, it's definitely bad for the throat, and my vocal teacher back in college desperately tried to teach me to speak properly, so that my throat would get less scratchy and sore, and instead would better conduct the air (and voice, obviously) through the throat.

The funny thing is that because of this habit, my speaking voice sounds nothing like my singing voice, which is lyric soprano.

Here's an example. It's kind of a long podcast (I do one every month) and usually I start out with a more upbeat, clear voice--which I do purposely because I'm always telling myself, "DON'T SWALLOW YOUR WORDS THIS TIME!" but about ten minutes in it creeps back in.

- Speaking voice (I'm the girl; you can hear me trying to start properly but ending up vocal frying all in my introductory sentences! I get better in later podcasts but still, ugh.)

- Singing voice (admittedly, 25 years younger, but my speaking voice was just as low then--lower, in fact! I used to be afraid I'd be cast in male roles because I sounded so butch.)
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Old 06-21-2012, 03:09 PM
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(Resurrecting an old thread)

Last week, I visited the Statue of Liberty and I almost started laughing when I heard one of the women speaking on the audio tour. "The Statue of Libertehhhh was dedicated in ehhhteen-ehhhhty-sehhhhhx..."
  #49  
Old 06-21-2012, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by psychonaut View Post
Curiously, nobody complained about this twenty years ago when singers such as Kurt Cobain were doing this (even to excess, in songs such as Lounge Act and Moist Vagina), but now that Britney Spears is doing it, suddenly it's a horrible epidemic?
That's because it doesn't sound so bad (1) in singing and (2) when its really low. We're talking about about women who use it in the tenor range while talking. You can just hear how bad it sounds.

It also doesn't help that speaking in that register is associated with Valley Girl speech where it is used for condescension purposes, as in that exaggerated video.
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Old 06-21-2012, 04:11 PM
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Originally Posted by choie View Post
- Speaking voice (I'm the girl; you can hear me trying to start properly but ending up vocal frying all in my introductory sentences! I get better in later podcasts but still, ugh.)

- Singing voice (admittedly, 25 years younger, but my speaking voice was just as low then--lower, in fact! I used to be afraid I'd be cast in male roles because I sounded so butch.)
You're doing it in the natural way, not the annoying way. And your voice is low enough that it's nowhere near as grating.

Also, many sopranos don't really have a high voice--they just have a really wide range.

EDIT: I say that, but you sound like a mezzo, or even high contralto. You're having to belt out a high F. You sound like you have the same range as my vocal instructor in college, and she called herself a mezzo.

Last edited by BigT; 06-21-2012 at 04:13 PM.
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