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Monday, January 07, 2013

I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed this (updates)

Creaky voice. It's a problem affecting mostly younger women.

I first noticed the problem -- and it is a problem -- years ago, while listening to Air America broadcasts on the computer. The female hosts did not creak to an annoying degree, but some of the vocal talent used in the commercials creaked deafeningly. One commercial featured a creaky-voiced young woman who sounded so much like a socket wrench I thought someone was removing spark plugs.

Apparently, many people consider this vocal affectation professional or sexy or both. It isn't.

You almost never hear this phenomenon in old films, television shows or radio broadcasts. Women's voices used to be much clearer, much more dignified. True, the afore-linked NPR broadcast does cite the example of Mae West, an early-day creaker. But her example hardly proves a rule -- and the prospect of a nation filled with young Mae West imitators is too dismal to contemplate.

I think we must not be afraid to make a judgment call (despite what you read here). Creak is an absolute evil. I will not tolerate Creak Apologists. Our daughters (and sons) must be taught that the creak reeks.

Update: Bill Dash, friend to this blog, has noticed the creak as well. He thinks that the earlier examples are mostly male. Edward G. Robinson, for example, was a classic creaker -- if you can picture him saying "Oh yeeeaaaahhhhh?" then you know what a creak sounds like. Bogie could also creak with the best of 'em. (I would also suggest W.C. Fields.)

Creak is a vowel thing. If you can make your vowels sound like rusty shutter hinges swinging in the wind, you have mastered the technique. But how did a vocal maneuver perfected by Warner Brothers tough guys become associated, in our time, with young women hoping to sound sophisticated? Bill's theory:
I have a hunch that latter day creaking may have evolved, at least in part, from female correctional inmates. As you know, in recent years, there’s been a marked increase in the number of women being incarcerated. People are often surprised to learn that women in prison tend to be much cliquier and harder on each other than male convicts. Adopting a well-tuned creak would be a useful way of signaling that you’re jake and not green, or easy meat.

I’d wager that a study of women from the wealthiest, most well established, old money families would probably reveal a virtual absence of creaking.
I'm not so sure of that. Our culture has become egalitarian only in this regard: Any bad habit that afflicts one class tends to hit 'em all.

One of our readers, zee, suggests that the greater problem is Marilyn Monroe-style breathiness. Yes, that too is an annoying affectation; fortunately, one does not encounter it very often these days. I used to hear it all the time -- mostly from gay guys. Back in the 1970s, I briefly worked in a store in West Hollywood, and I became really annoyed with the effeminate guys who, for fear of sounding butch, refused to speak up clearly. When the trappings of your sexual identity impede practicality, do the world a favor and go for the practical.

Some evidence indicates that the first young women to adopt the creak lived in the San Fernando Valley, my old home, back in the 1980s. At the same time, another Valley girl-ism infected the general population: That sharp little exhalation signifying annoyance. Imagine an easily-peeved teenaged girl saying: "Like..." (sharp little huff)..."I'm sure!" Moon Unit, what has thou wrought?
I thought Mae West was throaty not creaky? I'm going to have to look up a clip of hers.

Other than that, if you are speaking of women who use breathy, baby-doll voices, it's infuriating. And it's everywhere. I've been known to rant at the TV and turn off programs when I hear it...even HGTV programs where the wife has such a voice, and I do dearly enjoy an HGTV show.

Not sure if you're a Big Bang theory fan, but one of the best episodes was where Sheldon was reprogramming his roommate's girlfriend by positive reinforcement. He got rid of her squeaky voice by repeating her comments in a lower register, which she then repeated in a lower register...and then feeding her a chocolate!
Heads up to women trying to listen to Joseph's link: the topic starts at minute fast forward to spare yourself from the mind-numbing ordeal of listening to the banter of these self-important brats.

I'm disappointed that the men find a gravelly voice irritating. No doubt these are the same men who find the breathy babydoll voices so appealing that grown women adopt them. Marilyn Monroe, alone, is forgiven. The rest of you? Not so much.
zww, this isn't about breathiness, and it's not about register. It's about that "socket wrench" sound.

Women do it SO MUCH these days they don't even know that they are doing it. You probably can't even hear it.

But once you notice it -- you can't UN-notice it.

The creak happened within my lifetime. The creak is new.
Never heard of creak. Got any links to examples of female creakers?

In the UK, youngsters of both sexes talk a lot of 'Australian', meaning that they use interrogative intonation - a rise in pitch at the end of a sentence - when they make a statement, as if suggesting that you may be too fuckin' stupid to understand what they're saying. E.g. "I went to the high street. And I'm holding my phone."

This illustrates the increasing 'dog eat dog' character of the culture.

It also relates to how zombies talk to each other when they're at an event 'listening' to very loud music, where they're lucky if they get a few words across to the person they're talking to; where it probably doesn't matter what they're saying; and where, in any case, both speaker and putative recipient will probably have forgotten the communication a within half a minute. In most encounters and circumstances, none of these three considerations applies, but that doesn't bother our dimwitted youngsters of the Facebook generation, for whom every loanshark is kindly old Father Christmas.

Lest I get too miserable, here's what I call a lovely female voice, singing in Italian. (Not the crap male voice singing crap lyrics in English at the end!) Why doesn't anyone sing in English like that?
My post has links, and links to links. But b -- you're better off NOT noticing the creak. Once you hear it, you can't un-hear it.

Surely you've heard Edward G. Robinson drag out the vowel in "Yeaahhhh..."? Surely you noticed the ratchet-y quality? That's male creak. Creak became a female thing, starting in California, about thirty years ago.

Like you, I too have been bugged by the rising intonation on the final noun (usually, it's a noun). This bad habit transforms simple declarative sentences into questions. "So I went to STORE? And I bought a CANDY BAR? And then I ate it and I threw UP?"

In my experience, this speech pattern hits both sexes equally. People who fall prey to this tic sound really insecure, as if they're afraid you're going to challenge even the most trivial of their statements.

I think that this pattern also started in CALIFORNIA? But, like, I'm not SURE?

The southern variant involves the word "Okay?" Whenever you hear someone who tosses in a superfluous "Okay?" at the end of a statement, you know that HE knows that he has uttered an indefensible absurdity.

Example: "So, like, Barack Obama is going to take away all of our guns because he's a Muslim and he wants to establish the caliphate in this country. Okay?"
I have the same reaction to the "Creak" as I do to finger nails across a chalk board. Both make my skin crawl.

Wow, y'all are some sheltered individuals.

This is not a NEW phenomenon. All Teen/Preteen girls talk this way, always have. It is deliberate. They tend to outgrow it.

Now, I can believe that in our current entitled culture, after years of parachute parenting, many adult women are not outgrowing it, because they have arrested development.

My boss' daughter talks this way. Adult, college educated, but completely self centered and codependent on her mother.
Hm. As best as I can represent it in text, I'm guessing this creak would result in the phrase "Really?" coming out as "Rrrrully?" I think maybe the reason I haven't noticed it (or cared about it if I have noted it) is because it seems to be a deliberate and intermittent affectation.

As opposed to the juvenile baby-doll voice, which is oblivious and unrelenting (again, Marilyn is exempted..she was deliberate and skilled).

Vocal affectations through the ages have not received enough attention. I'd love for someone to use movie clips to demonstrate them. Some of the most striking examples have been the brusque clipped tones of the 40's "dames" and the early 20th century "warbling" you can find exemplified in the "high society" portrayals in Marx Brothers films. The warbling fascinates me (Glenda the Good Witch in Wizard of Oz mastered it as well) and as unnatural as it is, I would love to learn to at least mimic it, but alas, it's a skill I lack.

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