Speak UP!!!!


I try not to complain, I swear I do.

I try not to be that old lady who gripes about “kids today.” Cuz for the most part, I’m actually a really big supporter of “kids today.” I think our next generation is wonderful! They’re philanthropic, socially aware, politically liberal, creative, spiritual and generally adorable.

They make great music, great beer and wonderful cannabis butter.

I love the millennials!

Except…

What. Is. With. Those. Voices?

It’s not the men (sorry….I swear, I’ve been a feminist for decades!)

It’s the women.

It’s the recent speech fad that has taken over the women on radio, television and in far too many casual conversations.

As a former speech/language pathologist, I always pay attention to the way people speak. I tune in to pitch, to intonation patters, to the rate of our speech. There have always been habits or fads to the way public figures speak.

Can’t you picture those old WWII news reels, where the guy speaks with the rhythm of a machine gun? His voice would go up and down in an exaggerated intonation pattern in an almost singsong tune. Listen to two minutes of this 1940’s newsreel and see if I’m right. Politicians from those years spoke the same way, but they also had the same fake New York/London/Boston accent mashup. Picture Cary Grant or Bette Davis.

Am I right?

If you jump forward to the 1960’s, the TV and radio voices became slower, more mellow. Both men and women spoke at a low pitch. Their voices were smooth, mellow, drawling and sultry. Everyone tried to sound that peaceful and calm at that time.

I was just a kid, but even back then, I remember loving those TV voices. They sounded like real maple syrup pouring out over a stack of pancakes. See what I mean in these old ads?

I don’t think I noticed any other verbal styles or habits after that time, although I’m sure there were lots of little quirks.

It wasn’t until the past three years or so that my aging and increasingly cranky ear has been caught by a verbal trend.

And this one is making me insane.

See, all the young women on the air today sound like they just swallowed a frog. Every sentence kind of trails off and ends on a pitch so low that their voices scrape along the gravel.

They all sound like they smoke too many cigars.

It’s awful.

It’s terrible for your vocal cords, in the first place. Don’t these women want to be able to sing along with Rhiannon Giddens in the car? I mean, jeez.

And it’s terrible for comprehension! Especially for old folks like me. When these young whippersnappers drop their pitch that much, I lose the whole conversation.

And its just so freakin’ trendy! You know?

Last week I took my Mom out for lunch at our favorite local spot. We were enjoying out pad thai and our shrimp curry, but I couldn’t make myself ignore the conversation taking place at the table behind me. Not because it was so fascinating, but because both of the young women were speaking in glottal fry.

“I only have two weeks left before my (picture the sound of a frog here) school year staaaarts.”

“I know! I already have my classroom just aboooout reeeeeady.”

I could hear their vocal folds shredding. And even though they were young, enthusiastic teachers, I wanted to strangle the life out of both of them.

OK. I am old. Yes, I complain. Fine, I’m cranky.

But, holy annoying mindless stupidity.

Listen to this please. Tell me I am not alone in bemoaning this horrible vocal scourge.

pitchrangepr_0

Fantasy Island


Its funny how our fantasies change as we age. Once upon a time, mine included dashing heroes, dramatic rescues and me as the brave heroine.  As I got older, my daydreams most often showed me becoming famous as a writer/singer/actress/diplomat/chef (I have a good imagination, what can I say?).

Then there were the Mommy years.  You know, the ones where I somehow managed to juggle a 35 mile commute, a full time teaching job, and three children.  Those were such alluring fantasies, pulling me in and holding me close.  I remember standing at the washing machine, sorting the dirty clothes while dinner cooked….my mind wandering to a delightful vision of me, asleep in a freshly made canopy bed.  Alone.

And now I am firmly ensconced in middle age.  I still drive 35 miles each way to my job as an elementary school teacher.  I get up at 5:30, turn on the news, read my emails and Facebook, check some blogs and get in the car by 6:15.  I turn on the radio and listen to political talk radio as I battle the morning traffic. Words, words, words. They swirl around me, flooding my eyes and ears.  Words go pinging through my brain, caroming and zooming around, waltzing with the words already filling the nooks and crannies.

I get to work at about 7, and jump right into the day.  I talk to my colleagues and friends; I listen, I consult, I plan, I read and write and chat and ask and answer.  Words, words and more words.

The students come in at 8:15, and the real day begins. I greet each student with cheerful words, then bring them to order with stern ones. I use inspiring words, cajoling words, empowering words, reminding words.  I talk, and talk, and tell and describe and clarify and comment and request. Phew.  Words!

Three girls come up to ask me, “Can we speak to you in private?”, and now it is my turn to listen. I sort through the “ums” and “likes” and “kindas” to try to find the problem that prompted the request.  I sift through the tangle of words, the intonation, the facial expressions, the gestures.  I listen, I ask, I weigh and measure and offer advice. With words.

Lunch is a conversation with a parent, a consultation with another teacher, and a series of questions for the secretary.  Words, words, my poor achy brain is choking and gasping with the glut of words.

The afternoon is just like the morning, with more stern words and fewer hilarious ones.  Eye contact, touches, smiles, words, thoughts, pats on the shoulder, words and words and words!  Words to write, to read, to edit, to circle.  Phrases and comments to puzzle over, mull, ponder and monitor.

At 2:45 the last child leaves, and it is off to the meetings, conferences, phone calls and strategy sessions.  On-line tutorials (WORDS!), textbooks to read (WORDS!!), emails to send and read and sort and delete.

And then back in the car, where the news of the day drowns me in more words, and I listen and judge and evaluate each one.  I try to turn to music, but the lyrics capture me and make me think. I worry in words, I remember in words.  I taste and breathe and drink in words and phrases and sentences and paragraphs.  I am exhausted with words.

And so.

Now when I am walking in the woods, or turning the garden, or trying to fall back to sleep, my fantasies have changed once again.

Now I dream of a tiny cottage on a remote island, looking directly out to sea. My back to the town, the neighbors, those who would communicate with me, my eyes and ears trained on the wordless ocean, I see myself in my fantasy life.   My dreaming shows me a quiet, middle aged woman with a job that she does all alone, every day, in a non-verbal world. Maybe she is a painter, or a gardener or a collector of sand dollars.  Sometimes I see myself as a shaper of wood; silent, undemanding wood.  Working with my hands, and not my mind, and not my voice.  Working to shape something beautiful (as I do now), but working with a medium that can’t argue back.  I see myself working to please no one else, in a place where there are no egos to coddle or anxieties to ease. No conferences, no conflicts, no challenging behaviors; no futures to touch or shape or craft. No sense of failure for having failed to find just the right words to get through……

In my dreams now, it is just me, without a dashing hero in view.  Just me, the endlessly rolling waves, and a sense of mute satisfaction.