Category: bad science

Pan Frying Part One – A Media Frenzy

‘Vocal fry’ was trending again. This time I picked it up through SPA’s twitter feed:

Perhaps you’ve also read about it here, or here, or here, or here, or here?

I hear it every day. At a rough estimate, perhaps 20% of my colleagues at uni use it habitually, and many more at the end of sentences. I even hear myself do it. Here’s my housemate (mid 20s male) doing it:

Across the coverage, several things become apparent:

Here’s one of probably thousands comments on the articles mentioned above that illustrates the level of disgust people have for this ‘vocal tic’:

fry excerptWow. So why are people so into fry?

Simply put, it’s just another way to ignore the structural barriers women face to occupational success. People seem unwilling to admit that the barriers are cultural, historical and institutional, and instead seek to blame the women themselves. You didn’t get the job because you used uptalk. Because you used vocal fry. Because you made grammatical errors.

Luckily, there have been a few people to question this dominant narrative. Mark Liberman at Language Log has deconstructed many of the faulty assumptions that underly the above assertions (here’s a list). A voice training business wrote a stirring defense of women’s voices, and here is Amanda Hess’s response to Bob Garfield as referenced above.

fryIn an upcoming post I will discuss the physiology and acoustics of fry, and review the published research.

(Cover Image by user Managementboy (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

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