This American Life is one of the podcasts I download every week, and I was excited when they started talking about vocal fry on this week’s episode. (I’ve talked about vocal fry recently in a post on stigmatized speech behaviour in the English classroom, and lots of interesting linguists have written about it in various places, including on the Language Log.)
I was a bit nervous, though, too, because mainstream media tend to pathologize vocal fry, portraying it as an epidemic that’s ruining the speech of the youngsters. Really, it’s just the newest point of criticism in the long tradition of loading stigma onto the speech of young people, especially women.
Thankfully, at the end of the 8-minute piece, the conclusions they reached were the following:
- Vocal fry exists in the speech of lots of people. Your problem with vocal fry is less linguistic and more a problem with young women and their voice in society in general.
- If it bothers you, it means that you’re out of touch with the features of speech of younger people; in other words, you’re probably old.
- And if you don’t like it, well, there’s nothing you can do but get over it!