Are You Suffering From Vocal Fry? What Is It?

The media is a very powerful force. It influences the way we dress, the things we like, not to mention creating trends and fads which sometimes tend to snowball and cause huge mental changes and social shifts, especially when it comes to young people.

Liking something because it is in vogue is one thing, changing your outlook on life, your perspective and your whole behavioural pattern, is another. So, I ask myself, when is the media’s brainwashing too much? When do we stop being simply people with a collective love for something temporary and start being vacant-eyed sheep mindlessly tumbling over a metaphorical bridge, one after the other? One good example of how adolescents and young people are being subconsciously changed and twisted is by the adoption of vocal fry.

Vocal Fry (also known as glottalisation) is an intonation and a way of using one’s voice – it is a low vibratory sound that is starting to emerge in people’s speech patterns, particularly at the end of sentences. Vocal fry occurs when the vocal cartilages squeeze together very tightly. This allows the vocal cords themselves to be loose and floppy, so when air passes between them, they can vibrate irregularly, creating a popping, rattling and creaking kind of staccato voice.

In an interview, NBC’s Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman stated that the vocal patterns heard on TV and the media have started to influence popular speech and that ‘it’s possible that young folk who want to sound cool … are perhaps using this as a social tool to add a certain quality to their voice.’

From Kim Kardashian to Britney Spears to Ke$ha, vocal fry seems to denote not only a laid back attitude, but also a worldly one. Although vocal fry had been previously recognised as the lowest of the three vocal registers (the other two being falsetto and modal speech), lately pop culture and the media seem to be popularising the pattern even more, with this sub-genre of speaking entering society subconsciously when it comes to teens and young people, particularly females.

Singers, especially those who use bass notes, are aware of vocal fry, in that they actually try to avoid it, since it is not good for the throat and vocal chords.

However, instead of sounding sophisticated and hip, vocal fry actually causes people to sound thick, stupid and chav (hamalli), leading, as a study published in May 2014 showed, to a loss in job prospects if this speech pattern was used during interviews. As part of the study, researchers at the University of Miami and Duke University asked a number of young people to say the phrase “Thank you for considering me for this opportunity” in both a normal tone and in vocal fry, then through an online survey, asked other individuals which kind of voice they preferred. Most of the listeners said that they preferred the normal voice to the fry voice and that they were less likely to hire persons with the fry voice, as these gave them the impression of being less trustworthy. On the other hand, people who used a normal voice sounded more educated, competent and appealing as job candidates.

In the end, an individual’s mode of speech is his / her own choice, however I find it ridiculous, not to mention worrying, that the media has become such an influential machine as to even subconsciously change the voice pattern of a whole generation. We must really be careful not to lose ourselves in such trends and to try and keep our own character and personal traits, even when this, perhaps, means going against the current social fad or ‘cool’ thing to do.


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