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Vocal Fry

There are lots of different accents and vocal inflections heard among English speakers, even within native speakers. One that has been in the news lately is "vocal fry." Even if you haven't heard about it, you probably know of it. Here is some information for you.

Work advice: Want a side of vocal fry with your order?

Reader: I sit in a cubicle next to someone whose job requires her to make lengthy phone calls to vendors. She’s a capable, smart young lady whom I like. However, she regularly engages in vocal fry during her calls, and I just can’t take it anymore.

I thought I might gently mention this impediment to her, but she told me recently she went to speech therapy as a kid, for a different speech impediment. Now I’m afraid to say anything in case it hurts her self-esteem.

I am not the only one who’s noticed the vocal fry, but her supervisor does not sit close enough to hear her on these calls.

Other than donning headphones, is there anything I can do? I’m concerned this affectation will hurt her professionally, and she’s good at her job.

Karla: For anyone who’s missed the last few years’ media coverage of this phenomenon, “vocal fry” refers to an airless, guttural tone of voice, mostly associated with young women. Unlike uptalking? where every phrase? sounds like a question?, vocal fry involves lowering and flattening one’s pitch, presumably because the speaker thinks it projects confidence and authority.

To read more of Karla's answer, click here.

Also, here is an NPR video segment about the trendy or annoying (depending on whom you ask) accent:

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