DEAR AMY: I DETEST the grating, creaking and dragged-out tonal quality of “vocal fry,” as epitomized by the Kardashians’ voices. Not only is this croaking like fingernails on the chalkboard, but it also damages the vocal cords. Why does anyone want to sound like this? Suffice to say, it’s a terrible habit that has spread like wildfire, first among young women, then guys and now toddlers who emulate their parents. It’s awful. It’s by far more shallow-sounding than the overuse of “like.” My 8-year-old granddaughter (whose parents, thankfully, never adopted this trend) is taught by a fantastic third-grade teacher who presents with a shrill vocal fry. Unfortunately, my granddaughter is now emulating her teacher’s voice and, not only has her beautiful singing voice suffered, it’s distressing to me that her strong, clear speaking voice may be forever lost. My daughter agrees with me, but also says, “It is what it is.” How can I make this manageable? It’s not that I’m out of touch, but this trend is . . .
Driving Me Nuts
DEAR NUTS: “Vocal fry” is the lower-pitched and sort-of shredded speaking tone that many of us have when we first wake up.
This lower tone with a little smoky croak around the edges can sound casual and natural — to some — or neurotic and unsure to others. To me, vocal fry sounds the way a person speaks if they simply aren’t trying very hard.
Yes, this speaking style seems to have become popular, which illustrates how even something as basic as the way a person speaks can be trendy.
For a great contrast, watch an American movie made in the ’30s. Not only do the actors seem to force more air out of their lungs when they speak (perhaps a function of having to project more for ancient recording technology), but many of them seem to have British — or British-like accents! (Two examples: Britishy-clipped Bette Davis was from Massachusetts. Myrna Loy was raised in Montana.)
I don’t think vocal fry will damage your granddaughter’s voice, her vocal cords or her singing voice, even though she may adopt a singing style that you (also) don’t like.
I’m an (amateur) musician and I don’t like the way very young singers emulate pop stars because it seems so reductive, but . . . so WHAT?! I emulated pop stars when I was young, too.
My mother sang like Rosemary Clooney; I tried to sing like Mama Cass. They sing like Rihanna.
So yes, it is what it is. Correct this child on her use of “like,” but encourage her to use her voice as a tool for empowerment, no matter how it sounds to you.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I are in our 50s. He recently had knee replacement surgery. I am very surprised that my close circle of friends has not been more supportive. A couple of them haven’t even gotten in touch. Two friends texted the day after the surgery and asked how things went, but in the week since, we have heard nothing from them. Even some family members are the same way — sending a message on Facebook? Come on. Can’t anyone pick up the phone and actually call and have a conversation? Can’t anyone come over and visit my husband, who is laid up on the couch? I realize it’s not open-heart surgery, but texting “Let me know if you need anything” is an easy way out. I’m not going to call you and ask you to bring over dinner. Am I expecting too much? Is this just the way things are now?
DEAR WONDERING: Sometimes, texting (or FB message) is the preferred way of communicating because it does not obligate the recipient to answer and speak. And yes, texting can also be a lazy way of fulfilling a “check-in.”
But when someone asks, “Let me know if you need anything,” your answer should be: “Thank you! Barney would love a visit. Can you swing by after work?”
This does not absolve people from their thoughtlessness, but you and your husband can also create a Facebook post encouraging people to help (if you’re inclined). If you provide specific tasks and ask, people will step up.
DEAR AMY: “Confused” was a man who was in a domestic situation with his girlfriend and her mentally ill sister, which you compared to a Tennessee Williams play. Thank you for suggesting a home renovation for this group. Some of their problems could probably be solved with some drywall.
DEAR DONE THAT: Some separation was definitely in order.