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What is ‘Vocal Fry’ and Why is Everyone Talking About it?

posted: 07/28/15
by: Courtney Reimer
woman addressing a group
iStock

Surely you've heard of "Valley Girl speak" or "uptalk," which is a vocal intonation typically used by young women and makes every statement sound like a question. Well, the latest manner of speaking that has tongues wagging (pardon the pun) is something called "vocal fry," and if you haven't heard the term before, we promise me you have heard vocal fry itself. More in that in a minute.

The reason you're seeing "vocal fry" referenced on your Facebook and at the water cooler is likely because famously controversial writer Naomi Wolf wrote an essay decrying it as preventing young women from being taken seriously. She describes the phenomenon as "that guttural growl at the back of the throat, as a Valley girl might sound if she had been shouting herself hoarse at a rave all night," and then asserts that asking women to speak more clearly and confidently will bear great fruit.

"In my experience of teaching voice to women for two decades, when a young woman is encouraged to own her power and is given basic skills in claiming her own voice," Wolf writes, "then huge, good changes follow."

Indeed, Wolf isn't the first one to make this assertion. The Huffington Post published an article titled "Vocal Fry, Made Famous By Kim Kardashian, Is Making Young Women 'Less Hirable'" and none other than Fortune posted a piece about how to banish vocal fry to get ahead. Others insist it's time we just stop criticizing how women talk and listen to what they're saying (pretty good point, if I do say so myself.)

Still confused by what exactly "vocal fry" is? This video, courtesy of CBS News, sums it up pretty nicely: