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Open Dictionary word of the week: vocal fry

vocal fry (noun)

a speech habit involving lowering the voice at the ends of words or sentences by slowly vibrating the vocal cords

Pop singers, such as Britney Spears, slip vocal fry into their music as a way to reach low notes and add style.

(Submitted from the United Kingdom)

I spotted this phrase somewhere recently and now I’m seeing it everywhere and, as Stephen Fry would say, it turns out to be Quite Interesting. After all, where there’s smoke, there’s bound to be a fry-up (argh! terrible, sorry). There’s this article on vocal fry becoming the ‘hot, new linguistics fad’ amongst New York women. That was written in December last year, but today, when I looked on Twitter to see how recently vocal fry has been twalked about there – well, it’s still a relatively hot topic (though as tweeter @jeffchatterton points out “People keep talking about this “new” trend in speech, “vocal fry“. New? Tori Amos has been vocal frying for like 25 years”. Anyway, the QI bit for me was that the latest tweets about vocal fry are in Dutch – so  is vocal fry a linguistic trend that is language indifferent? It would be great to record a vocal fry trans-lingual mash-up. Anybody? Also,  this column on vocal fry out of Amsterdam seems (my Dutch is Afrikaans) to be talking about vocal fry because it’s  becoming trendy in Amsterdam but also because it’s Women’s Day. And indeed, it is Women’s Day.  And that is my half-baked, stir-fried attempt to say Happy International Women’s Day to you all through this Open Dictionary post, let that vocal fry fly!

You can listen to a demo of vocal fry here.

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Laine Redpath Cole

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