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Vocal Fry or annoying voices on podcasts
January 4, 2016
8:19 pm
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colormeconfused
Expert Hamcat
Meows: 438
Snarking Since:
March 18, 2015

I agree that voice complaints are more often than not sexist as hell. I have a degree in linguistics and sociolinguistics covers this a lot. I actually did an entire senior project on vocal fry. Anyway, in the 80s a bunch of researchers did studies and found that vocal fry was normally used by affluent or educated men, and that listeners perceived vocal fry to be linked with educated and powerful people. Women were encouraged to use vocal fry in interviews and things because it made them sound more assured, confident, and, well, masculine.

Cut to now, where vocal fry is frequently used (but not mostly, I refuse to believe that – everybody uses vocal fry) by young women and suddenly it's the worst thing that's ever happened. Everyone's talking about it, which I believe furthers the hatred/annoyance of the thing itself (like the hatred of the word "moist"). And, as This American Life explains, people complain about vocal fry in women ALL THE TIME and rarely when it's a man talking. That's not a coincidence. A similar thing goes on with uptalk.

Basically as soon as a speech pattern is attributed or employed by a lot of women, it becomes undesirable. When it's used by men, it's all good. Funnily enough, when women try to "speak like men" it can backfire. Another study looked at women asking for raises, and when they did so in masculine speech patterns, they were perceived to be rude, mean and b***hy. And when they did so with feminine speech patterns (hedging, uptalk, etc) they were perceived as un-confident and passive. drool So yeah. When words are coming out of a woman's mouth, they're judged based on that more than on the speech pattern itself.

January 4, 2016
8:27 pm
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Sentient Muscle Milk
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Meows: 3
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January 4, 2016

Looooong-time lurker here – created an account for this awesome podcast forum. I have a long commute and I listen to podcasts when I run, so I've had some time to form some opinions. 

  1. Vocal fry is not something I really hear. I would not have been aware of it had it not been in the news a couple years ago. I totally think there is a double standard with what is "acceptable" or "listenable" in women's voices vs. men's voices. Just like female broadcasters' appearances get picked apart while their male counterparts' never do.
  2. Having said that…I love "You Must Remember This"; however, Karina Longworth's articulation is sooo distracting. Maybe it's because my background is in linguistics and I loved phonology – but I just can't get past how many of her (t) sounds become (d) sounds. For example, Liz Taylor was married to Richard Burden; Mia Farrow had great success on Payden Place; a woman was beaden by Charles Manson; the show was ridden Karina Longworth. Oh man. Also, her voice acting leaves something to be desired. 
  3. My biggest problem with Diane Rehm's voice is that it makes me consider my own mortality.
  4. bandwagon Ditto comments on Ira Glass's voice. He is my least favorite part of TAL.
January 4, 2016
8:56 pm
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lurkatic
Expert Hamcat
Meows: 339
Snarking Since:
February 3, 2014

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I hate the voice of Ira Glass. Can't stand it. Also he includes "like" in his sentences like three time, you like know what I mean? It's super annoying.

bandwagon

His weird slur drives me insane. I'm convinced Lagunitas sponsors his show so they can hear him say "Glaglunintas".

This just made me laugh out loud. SO ACCURATE. Putting the pub — in public radio. 

January 4, 2016
11:19 pm
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kickgrifter

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There are some podcasters that I just can't listen to, no matter how intelligent or entertaining they may be, because their voices are painful! 

I am a devoted listener to most of Slate's podcasts, but I literally (and I do mean literally) have to turn it off the minute Emily Bazelon starts to talk. I've read her book and I think she's a decent writer, but her voice drives me crazy! 

 I don't mind the vocal fry thing. idontknow

I too like Slate's podcasts, but Katy Waldman's vocal fry drives me insane. I shudder every time she speaks.

smiley-signs064

I stopped listening to Slate Book Club solely because of Katy Waldman. Not just on account of her voice. She is so vague and sheepish with her opinions. "I mean, maybe it's just me, but I thought that was very interesting."drool

January 5, 2016
1:02 am
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Thus, coma.
Senior Hamcat
Meows: 648
Snarking Since:
June 16, 2014

Weird voices bother me a bit, but not enough to stop listening. Even Starlee Kine, bless her squeaky Kristen Schaalesque heart. 

I do think the vocal fry criticism is innately sexist–not intentionally so, but in that it holds women's voices to a higher standard? Yes, absolutely. It's not even something I would have noticed if I hadn't thrown my university dollars at a basic b***h major in linguistics. Women use greater inflection, a greater range of pitch. Women modify their voices a little more consciously because in situations like professional broadcasting or interacting in male-dominated arenas, they have something to prove. That's why people notice their voices. That's why people are bothered. It is not something they choose–it's something completely natural and mundane that others choose to object to.

I notice vocal fry easily now, but I think the innate acuity of detection generally falls within generations who didn't grow up with it, or people who aren't accustomed to American English.It's not just vocabulary that functions as a mechanism of linguistic change. Accents change. Phonology changes. Vocal fry sounds like a normal voice to me. Coaching is bullshit, IMO; this isn't the 50s and we don't need all broadcasters affecting the perfect melting-pot Mid-Atlantic in order to master the craft. 

January 5, 2016
1:12 am
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collectingvinyl
Senior Hamcat
Meows: 677
Snarking Since:
March 29, 2013

Colormeconfused, thanks for sharing that tidbit about vocal fry.  I've read several articles on it and never knew that it had a positive association in the past.  I don't mind it.

I like distinct/'annoying' voices because they hold my attention more.  The only thing that really grates is relentless upspeak and I pick up on that inconsistently.

BRB, going through a self-love phase.
January 5, 2016
2:41 am
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idle_days
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Meows: 4
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March 1, 2014

Sentient Muscle Milk meowed
 

  1. Having said that…I love "You Must Remember This"; however, Karina Longworth's articulation is sooo distracting. Maybe it's because my background is in linguistics and I loved phonology – but I just can't get past how many of her (t) sounds become (d) sounds. For example, Liz Taylor was married to Richard Burden; Mia Farrow had great success on Payden Place; a woman was beaden by Charles Manson; the show was ridden Karina Longworth. Oh man. Also, her voice acting leaves something to be desired. 

 

So much this. I excused a lot of it the first couple of seasons because it seemed like not only was she super new to it, but she was doing it all on her own.  There seemed to be some improvement toward the start of the MGM stories season, but by the end was as bad as before. The stories are worth sticking around for, even if I have to roll my eyes after she says "Karina Longworth – that's me!"

January 5, 2016
3:23 am
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papercut
Hamcat
Meows: 155
Snarking Since:
June 21, 2012

voice complaints, in general, might be sexist as Hell but the only podcast voices I personally can't stand belong to men: Ira Glass (hurrah, I'm not the only one!). Especially when I'm listening up-close in my headphones, I swear he sounds like Elmer Fudd. and I ALWAYS skip the intro to RISK! because Kevin Allison's voice is like nails on chalkboard to me.

January 5, 2016
6:38 am
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Avoid looking left as you exit, if idolatry offends you
Expert Hamcat
Meows: 414
Snarking Since:
January 20, 2014

I love Starlee Kine and Sarah Vowell's voices. I think I've listened to various TAL segments by them over and over again, mostly for their voices.

I hate the Radio Lab guys, they way they talk is so relentlessly arch and stagey.

Formerly - Lyris
January 5, 2016
7:24 am
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Mr Jim Business

I find it so interesting how much variation there is in who likes what because I LOVE Karina Longworth's voice. Starlee Kine's sometimes annoys me, but it's more her introduction of random SO!MEANINGFUL! anecdotes of background players (like how she questioned the guy on the phone with the company who sold the Britney Spears tickets about his mom) than her voice I think. 

When I was still listening to the Sword and Scale podcast I HATED that guy's voice, and it was part of why I stopped listening. 

And though this is the opposite of the subject of this thread, on a positive note- I could listen to Aaron Mahnke of Lore talk ALL. DAY. LONG. Love his voice.

January 5, 2016
9:34 am
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bluechalk
Expert Hamcat
Meows: 383
Snarking Since:
November 5, 2014

papercut meowed
voice complaints, in general, might be sexist as Hell but the only podcast voices I personally can't stand belong to men: Ira Glass (hurrah, I'm not the only one!). Especially when I'm listening up-close in my headphones, I swear he sounds like Elmer Fudd. and I ALWAYS skip the intro to RISK! because Kevin Allison's voice is like nails on chalkboard to me.

THIS! I use to put up with Kevin's intro but then he started singing the ads for Stamps.com and I was like nope nope nope. I now skip his intro and Marc Maron's (his voice is okay I just can't stand how long his monologues are now).

January 5, 2016
9:40 am
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mywifenow
Cat
Meows: 16
Snarking Since:
April 15, 2015

eee finally somewhere I can anonymously b***h about podcasts!

 

Ok I don't really give a f**k about vocal fry or uptalk, but the one person that I literally cannot listen to any more is Starlee Kine. Not because her voice is squeaky – I like the Kristen Schaal vibe! But her mouth just always sounds SO DRY. like, I can hear her lips parting between words and I can hear her gummy saliva, it DESTROYS ME. I'm just begging for her to take one simple sip of water, pleeeeease.

 

Her new podcast sounds like it might be cool but I can't put myself through that.

ah so glad to get that off my chest.

January 5, 2016
9:42 am
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Too Emotional to Pack Utensils
Expert Hamcat
Meows: 460
Snarking Since:
September 3, 2012

Not about vocal fry but I can't listen to the McElroy brothers on the Max Fun network (I think some of them do more than one podcast on there.) It's not something they could ever change, it's just not for me.



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