Mondays with Mike: It's their world now

February 23, 2015 • Posted in Mike Knezovich, Mondays with Mike, Uncategorized by

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.

bigdebby On February 23, 2015 at 2:02 pm

The hair and the cleavage bother me more!

Old Niece Jen On February 23, 2015 at 2:38 pm

I am not sure how I missed this segment on my favorite show. But I am so thankful you posted about this, now I know why I can’t connect with the young-ones in the office. But how am I now the older one?!

Mike On February 23, 2015 at 7:44 pm

Well Old Niece Jen, you might want to look at that user name:) You’ve never talked like that! Ever! THANK YOU Old Niece Jen.

Leone Anderson On February 23, 2015 at 2:51 pm

And is it just me, or do they seem to speak very fast and run their words together?

Doug On February 23, 2015 at 3:35 pm

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! (I’m not alone)

Mary Rayis On February 23, 2015 at 7:40 pm

Beyond the annoying nature of these tics is something more serious, especially with uptalk. You are right to notice that it is more frequently young women who speak this way. It’s an apologetic way of expressing thoughts, and it’s damaging to the way a woman is heard. It shows insecurity and hesitation about expressing a young woman’s thoughts, opinions, and feelings.

Mike On February 23, 2015 at 7:42 pm

Mary, I tend to agree but I’ve heard a different take on it–one that says those of us who don’t like it are picking on young women who’ve adopted these inflections because…they’re young women. (I don’t buy it, and my mom, who was a feminist before that word existed, wouldn’t either I don’t think, but I have heard that argument).

Sheila A. Donovan On February 24, 2015 at 11:42 am

So annoying! Make a statement, young ladies. Do not inflect your voice at the end of a sentence, unless it’s a question. Do not fade away at the end of a sentence. Enunciate! Even young people working with the public mumble over the phone. I’ve worked with the public all my life and they knew if I was saying 19, or 90, or 18, or 80, or 5, or 9.

Perhaps it’s because they are so used to texting that they’ve forgotten how to speak.

My main complaint is the F work is thrown 5 times into just one sentence, much less their whole conversation. It’s all I can do not to challenge them. I want to say “I challenge you to talk for jut 5 minutes without using the F word.” I think they use it as a filler.

Zest of Little Rock On February 25, 2015 at 9:09 am

OH wow. Thank you so much for posting this.

Marsha On March 14, 2015 at 3:24 pm

Mike, I missed this one and I am late to the discussion, but I wanted to thank you, too. You can imagine this annoys me on a daily basis, being a Speech Therapist. It may be that it is “their world”, but I have a feeling it will go out of fashion. I think we also need to be raising young women to speak in such a way that reflects their knowledge and intelligence. Then, if that becomes the fashion, the next young generation will hopefully have increased respect and the tolerance for the vocal fry-sters and uptalkers will end! I can dream, can’t I? Marsha

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