Back in 1999, when Britney Spears first tied up her schoolgirl top and attached those pink puffs to her pigtails for the “Baby One More Time” video, she did more than just provide fodder for millions of pubescent wet dreams. With the first words of the song – the low, growly, creaky, sexy “Oh baby baby,” – Britney may have launched the vocal trend that has become the hallmark of our generation, vocal fry.
In linguistic terms, it means lowering your voice, often at the end of a sentence, until the pitch is so low that the sound cracks or rattles. Imagine a bored young woman sarcastically saying the words: “super interestaaannnng.” Alternately, just youtube a video of Zooey Deschanel talking and listen to the way she pushes her pitch down to its lowest, creakiest potential. It can sound – depending on the user – bored, sexy, nonchalant, authoritative, or downright idiotic.
Socio-linguists have noticed. Vocal fry has become so common among North American high school and college students, particularly among young women, that a slew of papers and studies have been published trying to explain the trend. At McGill, where we float in a sea of subtle dialects and accents drawn from around the continent and world, vocal fry is the great equalizer – men and women from all over do it. And they do it a lot.
So what does fry sound like and why do we do it? Next Tuesday on Unfit To Print, The Daily’s one and only radio show and podcast, Timothy Lem-Smith and Kate McGillivray will investigate. Whether you drawl, mumble, up-talk, or rasp, tune in to CKUT at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, or check out the podcast at mcgilldaily.com.