Saturday, August 9, 2014

Why Are Women Quacking When They Talk?

Young American women are rapidly adopting the annoying nasal quack that was once the sole domain of Valley Girls.  "Creaky Voice" is the actual term created by linguists. (You can't make this stuff up.) You can even find a Wikipedia link on creaky voice.

The quack is different from the low vocal fry or growl, especially heard on the ends of sentences, where not enough air is used and the talk drops to the throat to croak out the last few words.  Many young women do both.

Creaky, quacky voice is high pitched, almost baby-talk like and up in the nasal passages where it buzzes with an affected rattling quality.  It can sound unbearably harsh and grating.  It's almost impossible to watch an episode on HGTV without the female house hunter quacking abrasively.

And yet it is not a vocal problem, such as Joan Rivers raspy voice, which seems to be her natural speech. Creaky voice is an adopted style of speaking.  No one, and I mean no one talked like this in the years prior to the late 80's or early 90's unless they had a speech defect.  You will not find it in any movie or TV show.

One blogger noted that even on the film, Valley Girl no one talked like that.  In fact, he says the women all talked fairly normally.  He observes that the creaky voice, when low, sounds immature, but
"if the voice is raised for emphasis, the Creaky Voice's evil twin emerges:  A brassy, strident utterance like the blood curdling caterwaul of financial planner Suze Orman.  You want to cover your ears.  It's as if women have decided shouting equals persuasion.
Touche!  I was at a major league baseball game a couple years ago with a large group.  Two elementary teachers had been invited along and sat just behind us.  For the entire game they didn't just talk non-stop, they Creaked with such volume and intensity that four of five of us, including the couple that invited them, had to get up and watch the game from the entry ramp many rows behind them.  My ears were literally ringing.  It occurred to me they had affected this nasal quack as a built in mega phone to out shout an entire class of noisy kids.  It was like finger nails on a blackboard.

Pennyscribbler adds,

In “They’re, LIke, Way Ahead of the LInguistic Curve,” Douglas Quenqua in the New York Times discusses how linguistics trends start with young women and make their way through the culture. It mentions the overuse of the word “like,” “uptalking” or the “high-rising terminal,” which involves ending declarative sentences on a higher note as if asking a question, and what’s called “vocal fry,” or going into the raspy lower registers.
A similar article on, like, younger people quack talking  (invoking a nasal quality that makes one sound like a duck, see also: Kenley Collins) and stuff with the kind of delightful title “What Happens in Vagueness Stays in Vagueness” basically, you know, ran in the City Journal in winter 2011.

1 comment:

  1. When listening to majority of female TV "speakers" (CNN esp.)I find myself frowning in pain as their high-pitched, "quacking" voices pierce my brain with the harsh vowel sounds being emitted from their constricted throats.Whatever happened to "modulate, my dear, modulate?" Am I the only one?