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13 January, 2016

Among the current, spoken language fads is something most commonly referred to as “vocal fry“; the trailing off of the voice into a ragged, gravelly intonation. In its favor, I suppose, is that it at least is not done with a rising inflection.  Not in its favor are its lack of suitability for oration (due to the diminished volume necessary) and the stigma of being a valley girl-like habit, suggesting immaturity.

Some have suggested that prejudice against this vocal fad is just a prejudice against young people.  Far, far fewer people over the age of 30 are likely to use it.  I have no doubt that one factor is the implication of being younger and less experienced or authoritative.  Then again, younger persons are more prone to taking up language fads without regard for what they do to credibility, making that criticism somewhat circular.

Once again, for those who engage in this fad, what would you think of the President of the United States, another world leader, or an authority like astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson using vocal fry?  Could the gravity of a national tragedy or the grandeur of a spiral galaxy be brought to life by the trailing off of the speaker’s voice into a low volume vocal fry?  What would you think of a major news anchor having this habit?

Just picture Martin Luther King using vocal fry — or Darth Vader, for that matter.  Vocal fry is another sheep thing.  It is a fad which is damaging to the credibility of those who use it, so use it advisedly.  It may be okay when in a small group of friends with the habit, but it is poisonous in other settings.


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