Vocal fry: Why more NZ women are doing it

9:58 am on 30 November 2018

The speech phenomenon of vocal frying where the voice drops and makes a creaking sound, is growing in popularity among young New Zealand women.

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The voluntary voice style is often associated with Hollywood celebrities like Kim Kardashian. Photo: AFP

The voluntary voice style, is often associated with Hollywood celebrities like the Kardashians, and studies in the US and Britain show its practice is growing there.

But a new research paper published in the New Zealand Medical Journal says it's gaining traction here as well.

University of Canterbury's adjunct Professor of communication disorders, and co-author, Margaret Maclagan said everyone does it in some form.

"Everyone uses vocal fry at the end of the sentence and people use it when they're tired, so it depends on whether it becomes habitual."

"There general rule when one teaches about vocal fry is that you speak in your lowest tone and then go two tones lower, then you will well and truly be speaking in vocal fry," she said.

For the research, Dr Maclagan compared archival audio of young women born in the 70s to those born in the 80s, and found the frequency of vocal frying has changed.

"I analysed the number of instances of vocal fry within 10 minutes of a recorded conversation and it more than doubled over those 10 years," she said.

Dr Maclagan said even the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks with a vocal fry from time to time, and habitual use is nothing to be concerned about as it's only a different way to vibrate the vocal folds.

Lead author of the research paper, Professor Jeremy Hornibrook, who is an ear, nose and throat surgeon at Christchurch Hospital, has noticed more women who fry their voice.

He said the cause was unknown, but there have been a number of theories.

"It could be an attempt to sound more authoritative, it could be something to be under or overconfident, I suspect for a few its fashionable, mimicked from prominent media people who do it, "he said.

Professor Hornibrook said although there's a rise in extreme cases, where whole sentences are fried, it's nothing to be concerned about - and it will likely spread to other groups in our society.

"Young women are the pioneers of new worked expressions and new ways in which that words are pronounced, that's pretty well-accepted."

He said he's now noticing young men are beginning to use an extreme vocal fry, showing the trend looks likely to stay.