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Jonathan

I blame the Disney Channel. Micheal Eisner started the whole thing. When Hillary Duff's Lizzie McGuire character went on the air; Valley speak was introduced to millions of pre-teen girls; who are now fully grown. Then Hannah Montana came later down the road, Raven, etc. If you watch those shows; you will see that EVERY character uses Valley speak to a degree. Not only does every adult sound as immature as the children; but, everybody sounds completely stupid. They even have old lady characters using Valley speak; which is, extremely unrealistic. Not only that; the Disney channel started a trend of Television shows using this accent not only with women; but, with MEN as well. It has spread across the entire entertainment world. Just listen to modern sitcoms like "The Big Bang Theory". Every single nerd on that show; Sheldon included, has that irritating Valspeak vocal inflection and whine. And if you listen to a lot of the younger male voice overs; you will notice that they're doing the exact same thing. Ever watch a show with a geek narrorator? Guess what? The geek narrorator has a tone of valspeak mixed in there as well. Valspeak seems to have even infiltrated the tech nerd culture. That alone is very bizarre. An intelligent crowd like that is the very last crowd you would expect to be speaking in the dialect of a complete moron. This thing has affected men as well. I have met plenty of young men and who talk that way in recent years. I don't talk that way at all and I'm only one generation ahead of them; having spent part of my childhood in the 80's and the other part in the 90's (And with this crazy modern culture or lack of culture that we have now.. I would rather be living back in one of those decades.. preferrably the 1980's). I feel that television and movies have caused the Vally Nation epidemic. Either the executives think it's "the new talk" or "hip" for characters to talk that way; or, the people writing and performing the characters talk that way. And I suspect it's the executives trying to set trends for the younger demographic. The thing is; THEY'RE the ones who started all of the young people to talking that way with their stupid shows in the first place. Everyone in this country in these modern times is now heavily influenced and programed by television. Vally speak is also one of the reasons I think many sitcoms just aren't good anymore. All of the sitcom characters speak in Valspeak or uptalk until you're ready to reach through the screen and strangle them...both Women AND Men.. And none of the characters sound like mature adults. Blame Corporate Hollywood; as I said before. And I still think the Disney Channel started the whole mess.

Marcie Judelson

Thanks for your observations, Jonathan.

You make a convincing case for placing the blame for all this on the Disney Channel. Maybe they are the original culprit, who knows. But as you say, we can definitely blame Corporate Hollywood/TV.

I have assiduously avoided most of the sitcoms you mentioned, so I haven't heard as many guys speaking Val Talk, but I suspect you are right about that. I work with young, techie guys, and I really don't hear Val Speak much (just "awesome!" which is the only word anyone uses around here).

Every time I hear the young women around me speaking this way, I am completely bewildered as to WHY, oh why, does this new crop of 2013 females (and some of the guys) aspire to speaking like (childish) morons? Is this a backlash to Women's Lib? Or a reaction to MEN being threatened by grown-up sounding women?

I don't know. But it's a sad commentary on our so-called "culture".

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Alan G.

I am so pleased to read this as I thought I might be the only human on earth both fascinated, and simultaneously disgusted, by this phenomenon. And, I agree, that the rise from funny-quirky aberration to almost universal use has been phenomenal. I have had to deal with it by suppressing my disgust and trying to research and understand this development...I have had little luck with that but your column is a wonderful help.
I also have noted that the use of all the individual quirks combined into a single "accent" has become pervasive throughout North America, no longer just a SFV regional curse, and not confined to an age-group, class or even ethnic group.
But, since I hear many examples on radio (and pod-casts) and especially on NPR, I have a couple observations to add:
Though it is far more prevalent in younger women, it's not 100% a young female "vocal tic", I have heard a few males (mainly young) as well as middle-aged women speak with the "full-monty": like-like, uptaking endings, exaggerated vowels (rully) and gravel-sandy low-pitching.
I have been surprised to note how many speakers are Asians and how few are African-Americans, but the vast majority are white (or so they self-describe).
I also note how many are "professional experts", often scientific or technical commentators...also very often they are professional journalists, reporters and authors (this may be heavily influenced by the NPR sources, but I wonder).
I noticed this so frequently that I began to suppose this could be a speech pattern that was "learned" in schools, especially elite institutions of higher education. Seems like a very long-shot but since it's clearly "learned" it must start somewhere and be reinforced by positive feed-back.
I have some theories of my own about some of the specific details and where they may have originated (like up-talking and the use of "like") but this comment of mine is already quite long. I may save thes for another day.
THANK YOU, again!

Marcie Judelson

Hi Alan,

Thank you for your comments. Great to know I am not the only one who is driven to distraction by "The Voice"!

I think (hope) the media is starting to pick up on this trend. The recent film, "In a World" touched on the topic...but only briefly.

I now have to stop myself from approaching women and shouting, "WHY are you speaking that way??!!" The urge is becoming overwhelming.

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Alan G.

I'm back to add some more commentary. In the interest of keeping things brief I'd like to put forward one of my theories concerning just one of the "features" of "the Voice"...this one: the use of "like".
Yes, I catch myself doing it , too, and it can be a maddening habit, which goes to just how easy some of these tics can lodge in normal speech by normal folks.
I believe that the use of "like" preceding nearly every statement serves to provide "cover" for the speaker: you don't actually (sorry) commit to what you're about to assert, it's just sort-of vaguely similar (or not, I can't decide...you decide for us both. OK?)
That works so nicely it becomes the cozy, safe place to position everything from: "I'm (like) not really sure of ANYthing I'm about to (like) say, or even if I should be (like) talking at all, or (like), even on this planet...OK?" Notice how often the word comes right before a verb, because that's the most "assertive" part of speech. But of course one can also assert that a thing IS a thing, so "like" also equivocates whether any noun is (like) a real thing.
My theory is that this habit came about from shy, nervous girls forced to speak up publicly (probably in a classroom or before a group of judgmental peers) and this was grasped as "instant cover". It was so effective that boys (who didn't fit the stereotype of blustering blowhard) picked it up, too. And with constant use it became an ingrained, nervous habit...a vocal tic.

Marcie Judelson

Thanks, Alan. Glad you are inspired by this topic! I, like, am interested in your theory about "like". You may be right. I don't know.

One of my colleagues uses a similarly wishy-washy expression -- she says, "sort of" all the time. As in, "I guess we could sort of have the meeting on Tuesday and if we sort of agree to move forward, then the next step would be to create a sort of budget." I'm not exaggerating. One of my favorite meeting games is to count the "sort of's"!

I don't think this is a common trend. It's just her own verbal tick. But it's in keeping with your theory about unassertive women.

Sadly, I say "like" constantly. So I can't claim to be above all that. But it definitely annoys me when I hear it from others. Especially when I hear it from the "baby voiced" Val Girls. Truly, it's The Voice that puts me over the edge.

Alan G.

Thanks for your encouragement, or what I'm going to take as such...here's my next installment of half-baked theory. What's the deal with "up-talking"? Like every human being who has learned to speak standard American English, I have always used a rising tone at the end of a sentence or phrase to indicate a question. If I was reading from a page and saw a question mark, this was the cue to end that spoken sentence with a raised pitch. Simplicity: no raised pitch, no question being asked...this was the norm for YEARS, nay DECADES. Only exception I was aware of was English spoken with an Irish-Gaelic accent, or with a Japanese accent/inflection. Within the last 15 years (my estimate) there began an increasing, encroaching habit by some speakers (who employ "The Voice") to end ALL their spoken phrases-sentences-statements (which are NOT questions) with a raised tone. And these speakers did NOT learn some other dialect of English in their mother's kitchen and they sure ain't trying to sound Irish or Japanese: it's an adopted habit.
WHY?
I believe that there is a practical "benefit", or at least some result, gained from this habit. For one it's yet another signal that the speaker is unsure or uncommitted to the thing she's saying: "I'm not making a statement, I'm asking permission". Beyond that simple self-negation there's also any number of IMPLIED questions: "I am stating a certain fact but: Do you understand me? Are you listening to anything I'm saying? Am I credible? Do I have any standing? AM I being HEARD??"
The one thing it certainly does is to signal that something consistently odd is going on: everything that sounds like a question is not one. You have to pay attention to the constant mis-cue and either blithely ignore it or be forever off-balance.
It strikes me as perfect verbal passive-aggression. It's grating, maybe even provoking, but hides behind a shield of (false) timidity.
In that one respect it seems to be part of a package with the use of "like", but the two tics can stand alone, too.

ElsyLuvsJersey

Hi, an example of older women who speak like thaaaassss (frog-y voice) is GMA contributor Tory Johnson. She is also author of weigh loss success story The Shift. She is pleasant, accomplished, nice. Ok. But, when she talks...! And her facial expressions! Like "eeww" ! I DK, wrinkling nose, raising eyebrow. Sge reminds me of Rebecca Black wheb interviewed by abc. Oh, well. BTW, Drew Barrymore's voice seems to be improving.

Anna

Thank You!!!!!!!!!!!! I live in Los Angeles and I have reached the end of my rope with Valspeak and Vocal Fry !

It reminds me of pedophilia and severely creeps me out.

I am in my twenties and have lived all over the world, it has spread like cancer.

Somebody PLEASE PLEASE, I beg you, PLEASE make it stop, it could make ears bleed !

Sarah

I too have been very annoyed by this accent. It's one of my pet peeves. I started a new job recently where I am surrounded by it. I am surprised that women think they can be taken seriously when speaking in this manner. I truly don't understand it; but it doesn't stop there, the men I work with also have this accent, and they are married with children. I think this is becoming a nation wide epidemic that needs to be stopped.

Anonymous

I am an eighteen year old girl, and I have noticed this tone of voice, it is very annoying! "Valspeak" seems to be taking over the world, but I do know some girls who don't use this way of speaking. I admit that I say "like" a lot and I have to make a conscious effort to tone it down. I don't speak in the high pitch whiny tone though (or at least I don't think I do...) and have no idea where it comes from or why girls do this! I feel that it happens more often when girls are in groups with many other girls. I've noticed that it is more common to hear other girls chatting in big groups using "valspeak" than individually. Great article, I sympathize with your frustration!

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Laurel Wroten

Yesterday, after enduring 5 hours in Delta coach next to two young women who were engaged in nonstop Valspeak, I came home and googled "young female annoying speech pattern," which led me to this amusing and cathartic essay. Thank you. I'm so glad I'm not alone! I've been calling it The Voice, too, because it's become so depressingly ubiquitous, and sounds the same no matter where you hear it -- the linguistic equivalent of some soulless corporate chain. Like you and many of the other commenters, I can't fathom how a vocal affectation that was mocked back in the '80s has managed to return with the vengeance of a mutant flu strain, even infecting NPR (it's like fingernails on a chalkboard every time I hear that irritating young woman thank the "William and Flora Hewlett FOUN-DAY-SHUNNN.") How did this happen?!? Why did "couldn't" morph into "counant" and "better" into "batter" and "so" into "saowww"? Is this babyish way of speaking somehow tied in with the pubic hair waxing fad, part of a subconscious effort by young women to infantilize themselves? Or are they just imitating pop stars, the way young women always have, only now the celebrities are cheesy and vacuous. Imagine Lauren Bacall with a Valley Girl accent, or Myrna Loy, or Audrey Hepburn, or Kathleen Turner. It's, like, ewwwwww....

By the way, your name rang a bell in my head when I saw it -- then I remembered: Happy Days on KWMR! My favorite show on the station! I love music of the '20s and '30s and always have, even when my friends were tuning in to the Beatles and the Stones. Maybe we were born too late!

J. Valentine

There is a Millennial Male version of this.

It has many of the same characteristics: the statements sounding like questions; the overuse of "like', "'definitely'; 'actually', and 'totally'; and an overall infantile/entitled/sniveling timbre and register.

This Millennial Male version has unique qualities too, e.g., starting a sentence with, 'Hey, man..' and the liberal use of 'man' and 'dude'.

Whatever this version is, it deserves a good name.

DW

I'd like to add to the list.... only because I have no clue where the inflection of "OK" used by anyone under 30 came from. I noticed it about 4 to 5 years ago....and it's only grown out-of-control like wild grape vines strangling the culture. The first time I heard it, it sounded like the young woman was annoyed with her person she was responding to....with the somewhat musical "OK." The tone seemed to say, "Alright, I know what you mean, and I don't want to hear you explain anything...or even talk anymore."

I have not words to describe it, but it's just flippant sounding.

DanielleM

I recently came across this post as I was searching this topic - hoping that I wasn't the only one who finds this "Voice" painfully annoying. I'm surrounded by this all day, every day, in my office. Even the higher up women have adopted this speech pattern from the new 20-30 something employees. I can only describe it as listening to nails on a chalkboard - you try and get used to it, but you just can't. Thank you for writing this; you certainly hit the nail on the head, and it gives me comfort to know I'm not alone while I endour this agony everyday at work.

Marcie Judelson

You are most welcome, Danielle. Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone out there.
I agree with everything you said. My office is the same way. And no, you can't get used
to it! Impossible.

Have you noticed all the female voiceovers on tv commercials also have The Voice? There's no escape.

Ccvl

I am serrrriously guilty of Valspeak, but that's because I grew up in Southern California. However, I moved to nyc 15 yrs ago, where the prevalence of valspeak and uptalk was comparatively small-- and lost a lot of my uptalk (still use '"like" a lot tho).

But now? 2014? Valspeak has permeated nyc like a virus, especially women. In 15 short years I have witnesses valspeak spreading like a plague.

Great article! Lol "baby smurf"

Kristin

I thought it was me!! I'm so happy to not be the only person whose nerves get grated to shreds by the latest beer commercial or for some trashy, reality show.
Samantha Jones from Sex and the City is the worst!! Watch Manneqin and Kim Catrall had a very feminine, soft voice, yet in Sex and the City, she's a pretentious d-bag with every word ending in a crunchy whiiiiine. I hate this new fad and I hope all the fakers (not those born with a naturally raspy voice) get permanent laryngitis and stop abusing normal folks' ears.

Anais Wolf

I don't think it is merely the fashion of speaking that has a contagious element. I notice a shallow, entitled and cultural superior mindset that seems weave through the undercurrents of these types of speech patterns. I often hear young men talk this way as well.

BTW. I am a music composer who never went to collage. I am merely an observer, as critical of myself as I am of the culture I live in.

Anais Wolf

correction
"Culturally superior"

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