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How Vocal Fry Works

        Health | Nose & Throat

Why Fry?
While haters accuse vocal fryers of sounding shallow and acting dumb, to younger generations, the vocal tic is more a sign of confidence and belonging.
While haters accuse vocal fryers of sounding shallow and acting dumb, to younger generations, the vocal tic is more a sign of confidence and belonging.
mauro grigollo/iStock/Thinkstock

If you're the type who likes to think of yourself as an autonomous individual, with your own original thoughts pinging around inside of your skull, independent of the society in which you live, get over it. Your mind is part of the hive, collectively dismantling, rebuilding, molding, distorting and generally mucking about with culture at large. And we do most of that through language. Since, as we now know, girls are the major innovators when it comes to language, that makes them powerful agents of change.

So the next question is, why are they frying? As mentioned, the typical first assumption among the Guardians is that whatever new vocal trend young women like perpetually cute actress Zooey Deschanel are using, it denotes insecurity and shallowness. This, apparently, is true whether the speakers are upspeaking or downspeaking or saying "like" too much.

Critics of this assumption point out that people are always accusing girls of being insecure and shallow no matter what they do. One Berkeley linguistics scholar has suggested that creaky voice doesn't communicate uncertainty at all. On the contrary, for the younger demographic that uses it most consistently, it could be used to assert authority when, for instance, speaking in a classroom setting. Or, in casual conversation, it might also signal calm, indifference or even boredom [source: Quenqua].

The main thing is, people who don't use vocal fry probably don't understand what it means and should avoid imposing too much meaning on it. Just rest assured that it's only a matter of time before it becomes even more mainstream and, without even realizing it, you'll be using it yourself to indicate that you're not a dinosaur.

As with accents, vocabulary and other aspects of speech, vocal fry probably also functions as a social marker or link, identifying those who use it as part of the same tribe [source: Quenqua]. If you hear others using this speech habit, you might unconsciously end up adopting it in order to fit in or at least show that you'd like to be friends.


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