Millennial generation plagued with Vocal Fry epidemic

Ever thought about what it sounds like when you speak? Vocal Fry is everywhere. All you have to do is listen.
Ever thought about what it sounds like when you speak? Vocal Fry is everywhere, and all you have to do is listen.

There’s a new trend with the millennial generation, and this time it doesn’t include selfies or subtweeting. New speech trends known as Vocal Fry and Upspeak are evident in speech patterns of the younger generation, causing social and physical harm to the user’s professional position and vocal chords.

Made famous by celebrities such as Katy Perry, the Kardashians and Britney Spears, this subgenre of “valley speak” is creeping into the voices of the majority of Americans.

Researchers at The University of California Berkeley concluded that over ⅔ of the American population uses this dialect style.

According to author of Science Magazine, Marissa Fessenden, Vocal Fry is described as the descent of pitch in someone’s voice as they reach the end of a sentence. Caused by the vibration of vocal chords, the sound  projected is deep and croaky.

Linguistic voice specialist, Dr. Reena Gupta, describes it as “when the vocal [arytenoid] cartilages squeeze together very tightly. This allows the vocal cords themselves to be loose and floppy. When air passes between them, they can vibrate irregularly, popping and rattling.”

Vocal Fry started as a subconscious mimicry. Women noticed that men in positions of authority spoke with voices on the lower register. In an act of imitation, women adapted the style and changed their voices to drop octaves towards the end of the sentence.

What started as innocent imitation has now become an issue both socially and physically for the users. Communication expert Diane DiResta sees the vocal pattern gaining popularity with young women.

“Adolescent girls are subconsciously adopting the speech pattern, and it’s limiting their employment opportunities,” DiResta said in an interview with Huffington Post.

Recent studies have shown that when Vocal Fry is used in a conversation, the listener draws conclusions about the speaker regardless of the content. “There was a study by Florida Atlantic University and they determined that women who had vocal fry were perceived as less competent, less educated and less trustworthy and less hirable,” DiResta told HuffPost.

Former radio host Jessica Grose was featured on an NPR story about Vocal Fry. A user of the speech pattern, Grose lost her job due to complaints about her voice.

“My voice was hurting my career,” Grose told NPR.

Dr. Gupta has noticed how often people are exposed to the speech pattern, and how that affects what they pick up and use in conversations.

“You can’t seem to turn on the radio or TV without hearing someone speaking with or about Vocal Fry,” Gupta said.

Conversational consequences aren’t the only drawback with Vocal Fry. The “valley speak” also causes physical damage to vocal chords.

Ramon Franco, director of otolaryngology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, claims that the slapping of the vocal chords can lead to injury.

Who knows? Maybe this will be just another trend that “Fry’s” out.


Photo by Molly Weston