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An Iron Ranger's View: Young women’s ‘vocal-fry’ language is dead on arrival

Our English language is a living language; a dead language is one that is no longer in everyday use, such as Latin. A living language changes; a dead language never changes.

Now, in the 21st century, our living language is going through a rather unusual change caused by glottalization.  Glottalization is practiced mainly by girls and women. When they glottalize, they use a creaky, growly sounding voice. Glottalization is better known as “vocal fry.”

Just as I have, you probably have heard girls and women using the vocal-fry voice. The most annoying example of vocal fry that I have heard to date happened the day I went to McDonald’s for a burger. As I waited, I listened to the girls and women who work behind the counter and in the cooking area. They were glottalizing. Their annoying voices sounded like the damaged voice of a 90-year-old, two-pack-a-day smoker. I stood there wondering what these girls and women could have done to their throats to cause them to talk in such an annoying, raspy, unnatural manner.

Later, I found out that the creaky, crackly, growly, popping sounds that characterize vocal fry can be attained by pulling together the vocal cords located in the voice box (larynx). It is said that girls, either consciously or subconsciously, practice pulling together their vocal cords so they can sound like Britney Spears, Ke$ha, or Kim Kardashian.

As modern and as connected as females might feel by talking like Britney, there are some serious repercussions for girls who use vocal-fry voices.

Olga Kazan, an associate editor at The Atlantic magazine wrote an article about a vocal-fry study published May 28, by the Public Library of Science. Her article was entitled, “Vocal Fry May Hurt Women’s Job Prospects.” Kazan described the study like this: “Researchers at the University of Miami and Duke University asked seven male and seven female young people to say (and record) the phrase, ‘Thank you for considering me for this (job) opportunity,’ in both normal tone and vocal fry. Then 800 men and women of a variety of ages were invited through an online survey to listen to the samples and select which speaker they found to be more … appealing.

“The listeners were less likely to hire the people with the fry voice because they found them to be less trustworthy. When making hiring judgments, people preferred the normal voice 86 percent of the time for female speakers,” Kazan wrote. If listeners were women, the negative reaction to the fry voice was even stronger.

Kazan also described the conclusion of the study: “Collectively, these results suggest young American women should avoid vocal fry in order to maximize labor-market perceptions, particularly when being interviewed by another woman.”

So we know that using vocal fry during a job interview greatly reduces the chance that the vocal fry user will get the job. But can vocal fry be used along with a girl’s other man-catching skills to attract a man? Unfortunately not. Kazan wrote: “Romantically, women tend to prefer men with deep voices and men tend to like women with higher-pitched ones.” In other words, vocal fry is not sexy to many men.

Not sexy? Fewer job opportunities? Turn off for men? Annoying? Although it is normal for a living language to change, why, ladies, do you insist upon insulting our beautiful language and the people around you by using the vocal-fry voice? So you can talk just like Britney Spears? Now that’s a really logical reason.

Joseph Legueri of Gilbert is a writer, retired educator, lifelong Iron Range resident and regular contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page.