Among the least important but most acute annoyances of modern life are the vocal patterns of young people. These patterns include the phenomenon known as vocal fry, where the last word of a sentence just sort of evaporates into the back of the speaker’s mouth. Check out this video for annoying examples.
Worse yet is the thing called uptalk or upward inflection—which can leave every sentence sounding like a question. This one really drives me nuts, as it goes beyond a stylistic annoyance and actually can confuse meaning. As in: This is a car vs. This is a car? Anecdotally, it seems like young women do it more than men, but in either case, for oldsters like me, it really hurts the credibility or authority of the speaker. Plus, the Esther Knezovich in me (my mother the school teacher and eternal internal language enforcer) just wants to choke these people.
It can be infectious, too, as I’ve heard contemporaries with teen and 20-something kids start adopting the mannerisms, as well as college teacher friends (here’s a nice piece on that). It’s a scourge I tell you.
Then again, I heard a This American Life piece on the subject that admonished curmudgeons like me to “Get over it.” Well, sorry Ira Glass, but it’ll take more than a skinny metrosexual to get me over it.
I was talking about all this over the weekend with a contemporary. She’s an architect who regularly employs student interns, and she put her finger on what is probably the larger concern lurking about these youngsters. She said, “Yeah, and you realize, it’s their world now.”
I imagine my parents and countless generations before them coming to the same terrifying conclusion. But there is some comfort. I happen to work with two young women, both hard-working, diligent, intelligent and always learning—an neither exhibits vocal fry or uptalk.
If it’s their world now, I’m perfectly fine.