You know, like that raspy Zooey-Deschanel-type thing where your voice has that little "GuUuUuUuUuUuUuUh" crackle, instead of the smooth, consistent "Guuuuuuuuuuuuuuh" and — that really didn't help at all, huh?
OK, it's this:
A scientific study was reported in a 2011 issue of Science magazine that's generally credited with adding the phrase "vocal fry" into the popular lexicon. Before this point, according to the magazine, apparently vocal fry did not exist, although Britney Spears anachronistically employed it in the first line of her debut single, "Baby One More Time" all the way back in 1998. And she wasn't the only pop star to do so.
The study from Science purported that
Specifically, vocal fry was said to be a trend among college-aged women of a certain social standing. "Young students tend to use it when they get together. Maybe this is a social link between members of a group," noted one female researcher.
All right, guys! We're finally getting closer to true gender parity! But the question remains: H
"This American Life" host Ira Glass recentlyin a conversation with Chana Jaffe-Walt (who is not a dude), Glass also admitted that no one notices his vocal fry. And it's not that no one notices — women are criticized for using vocal fry while men have been getting away with it for years.
"I get criticized for a lot of things in the emails to the show," Glass said. "No one has ever pointed this out."
It's certainly interesting to observe the trends in human social interactions in the same way we observe a pack of wild capuchin monkeys. But the way that vocal fry gained traction in popular culture was, well, kind of weird.
After that Science magazine article came out, women were suddenly being judged for the supposedly abrasive way in which they spoke when they used vocal fry, even though both women and men had probably been talking that way since well before 2011.
The simple truth is that vocal fry is just one way that people talk, regardless of their gender. Some people employ it as a means of being heard, as differentiating their voices from the rest of the masses. Other people really do just talk that way!
And it's another example of the way we treat women like Goldilocks ("This one's too sexy, and this one's too prude, and..."). If a woman uses a higher register to speak, then it's classified as ditzy, valley-girl uptalk. If a woman uses her lower register, it's vocal fry. If she speaks in the middle (modal range), her words often get lost entirely.
And maybe, just maybe, we should all try to worry less about the way people speak (or dress or...) and instead try to actually listen to and hear what they're saying.
So vocal fry? Don't vocal fry? Do what you want! Because if our crappy earbud headphones have taught us anything, it's that content matters more than the quality of delivery.