Bob Garfield over at Slate is horrified–horrified!–by the increased prevalence of vocal fry in young American women. Vocal fry is old news, but Garfield gets so worked up over it that one can’t help but wonder what’s at stake.
Garfield’s colleague Amanda Hess gives a pretty thorough analysis of why Garfield’s got such a bee in his bonnet: old dudes never like evidence of their irrelevance.
I suspect that the spread of “creaky voice” makes Garfield so mad because it represents the downfall of his own mode of communication, which is swiftly being replaced by the patterns and preferences of 11-year-old girls like Ida and her peers. As women gain status and power in the professional world, young women may not be forced to carefully modify totally benign aspects of their behavior in order to be heard. Our speech may not yet be considered professional, but it’s on its way there.
My favorite part of the whole thing might be the examples Garfield and Mike Vuolo use to illustrate their claims about how kids talk now. After enumerating the different meanings of the phrase “get out” when paired with different intonations, Garfield points out that the popular phrase for “you can’t be serious” is now “shut up,” rather than “get out.” Neither, of course, is even remotely current–more evidence that by the time cranky old dudes start complaining about cultural phenomena, the kids have long since moved on.