A recent study suggests that college women sound different than they used to, and pop stars may be to blame.
Famous singers like Britney Spears and Ke$ha use vocal fry, described as a “creaky, rough, guttural sound,” to hit their lower notes, and it’s these notes that change the way some women sound.
Researchers from Long Island University recorded the voices of 34 college women. The study found that more than 65 percent of them used the husky “vocal fry” sounds, usually dropping into the low, croaky register towards the end of a sentence.
“My colleagues and I have noticed this speech pattern in our young female college students,” said one of the study’s authors, Nassima Abdelli-Beruh. “Interestingly, some research indicates that in some dialects of British English, male speakers use fry more often than female. So maybe it is also a gender marker.”
After a similar study was conducted on American college men, the authors found that these males were less likely to be influenced by vocal fry.
Vocal fry may also be a generational marker as well.
“(A)necdotally, vocal fry is judged to be annoying by those who are not as young as the college students we tested,” she said. “My son, who is a teenager, listens to 92.3 NOW in NYC. I noticed the way the voice said ‘NOW’ on the radio (is) clearly glottal fry.”
Speech therapists consider vocal fry a disorder, typically seen in patients with vocal cord damage. The authors noted that speaking this way can cause benign, but sometimes painful lesions on the vocal cords, called contact granulomas.
I find this study fascinating because it proves that celebrities influence us, and we don’t even realize it. It’s unlikely that young women intentionally use vocal fry. However, young women are so saturated with media that their sub conscience tells them to speak differently while mimicking their favorite pop singers.