So, like, every day on my bus ride to work, I am, like surrounded by these 20- and 30-something girls talking like rully rully loudly on their cell phones. And it is like, so TOTALLY irritating. Seriously, I want to grab their iPhones from their gel manicured fingertips and run screeeeaming from the bus.
Their conversations all sound exactly alike. It’s as if these girls were all hatched from the same sorority at some College For The Overindulged where they majored in Shallow and minored in Snotty.
But what I notice most is that their voices all sound exactly alike. And OMG, it is, like, the most super annoying thing everrrrr.
Young women used to be mocked for speaking this way. They were parodied as moronic “Valley Girls”. Valley Girls were a popular stereotype and their trademark "Valspeak" was a staple of comedy routines and teen movies. Very few women actually aspired to talking that way.
Plus, in those days, you rarely ever heard anyone speak "Val" outside of the San Fernando Valley. It was strictly a regional accent, restricted to a small region of the country, and limited to a subset of young women (mostly teenage girls). Living in San Francisco, it wasn't uncommon to overhear a snippet of Valspeak now and then. But I always assumed it was a purely West Coast phenomenon.
That is soooooo not true anymore.
Seriously, have you noticed that now virtually ALL young women, in all parts of the country, speak this way? “Valspeak” has infiltrated the language like never before. It has no geographic boundaries. You can hear it on the streets of Manhattan or in the malls of the Midwest. Everrrrryone talks this way now!
I have coined a term for this latest version of Valspeak. I call it “The Voice” — and there is no escaping it. Turn on your tv and you will hear The Voice nonstop. Almost all young women on tv, from The Kardashians to The Bachelorette, now have The Voice. Even so-called “serious” journalists like CNN's Erin Burnett have The Voice (ok, using "serious journalist" and "CNN" in the same sentence is a stretch). Over at MSNBC, you can hear The Voice nightly — just listen to party girl turned political pundit Krystal Ball. Even when she's saying something semi-intelligent, it's hard to take her seriously because of...The Voice (and then there's also her NAME...and her penchant for tight, sleeveless dresses doesn't help her credibility, either).
The popular AMC series "Mad Men" prides itself on meticulously recreating the Sixties era. The show's set dressers and wardrobe people strive for authenticity. They usually get every last Sixties detail right; from the Mid-Century coffee tables to the women's kitten heels and teased bouffant hair.
But on a recent episode, that carefully crafted illusion was instantly shattered the moment Don Draper’s new wife, Megan, opened her mouth. OMG…she had The Voice! I'm sorry, but in the Sixties, women simply didn’t speak that way. "Mad Men" may be set in 1965. But Megan's vocal inflections are a dead giveaway that the show is produced in 2012. The Voice is as emblematic of our times as iPhones and Facebook profiles.
The Voice is also ubiquitous in tv commercials. I call this particular variation "Croaky Cutesy Voice”. Suddenly, almost every tv spot with a female voiceover sounds like it's being narrated by a six year old with a head cold. At first, the Croaky Cutesy Voice trend was sort of cool and different. Now it's just cloying. And mega annoying. Commercials used to be narrated by grownup women with sophistication and gravitas. But now, instead of Lauren Bacall, we get Baby Smurf. Really, enough is enough.
So, you ask, what exactly, is so irritating about this unique speech pattern? DUH. You mean in general, or shall I go alphabetically?
For starters, there's "uptalking". This is definitely one the most annoying linguistic trends of all time. Uptalking is when the speaker pronounces statements as if they are questions. As in, “So, like, yesterday, I went shopping? And like, I saw some really cute shoes?” What’s up with that? Listening to uptalk makes me, want to like, upchuck.
Then there is the phenomenon that linguists have dubbed “vocal fry”. This is the speech patterrrnnnnn where people draw out and end sentences with a gravelly low vibrato. This is like, THE most annoying trend everrrrrr.
Another trademark of The Voice is a bit subtler. It involves pronouncing the short "i" ( as in"pill") as a short "e" ("pell"). If you haven't heard this one yet, listen for it and you well. I mean, you will.
Of course, there’s the dreaded "l word": like. This is, like, the hallmark of Valspeak. But I have to confess, I am guilty of this one myself. Try as I may to avoid it, "like" has crept into my speech and has taken hold like a fashionista who just found a pair of Jimmy Choos on sale. I, like, say it ALL the time. So I am not, like, going to get all high and mighty about this one. Still, I know it is like, RULLY annoying (especially when combined with the "A-word": actually. As in, "We like, actually, didn't even start eating dinner until, like, actually, 9 PM").
Call it The Voice, call it Valspeak, call it whatever you like, this unfortunate linguistic trend is taking over our nation and it's time we called a halt to it.
Young Women of America: Why, oh why, do you persist in talking this way? Do you think it sounds fun and cool? It doesn’t. It sounds stupid and shallow. And super annoying. Does it make you feel like you're part of the club? Damn right it does — The Spoiled Ditzy Airheads of America Club.
Um, ladies, hell-o! Can't you plueeeze stop? Seriously, I am, like, begging you. PLEASE. STOP. TALKING. THIS. WAY. NOW.
Of course, it's hopeless. It seems Valspeak is here to stay.
And I am, like, sooooo over it.