Life Advice


Health & Spirit

'Vocal fry' drives grandma to distraction

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

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.

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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.


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