Alex on the evolution of linguistic culture

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The middle four panels of today's Doonesbury:

The whole strip:

Although the media agonizes endlessly over such things, there's remarkably little careful study of their distribution over space, time, social groups, and context. It's usually even unclear how much the peeve-provoking phenomena genuinely vary across generations (or genders or etc.) in production, and how much of the reaction is due to stereotyping and confirmation bias in perception.

But at least Mike's voice-quality peeve is expressed as

"The creaky voices — the way everyone under 40 sounds like they're over 80."

…rather than characterizing creak solely as an affectation of young women.

And his annoyance is directed at Public Radio rather than at the Kardashians.



  1. Laura Morland said,

    January 27, 2019 @ 8:01 am

    Glad to be directed to Alex-and-Mike interchange this morning.

    One irrelevant point, followed by an equally irrelevant question:

    (1) Re: your hyperlink, Ira Glass is quite insistent on the fact that This American Life is *not* an NPR program. In fact, he likes to tease the network–once I heard him discuss laying some music underneath an intro and calling it "an NPR moment."

    [From the site: "Most listeners I meet seem utterly unaware of who our distributor is, or they think – mistakenly – that we’re part of NPR. NPR is the company that puts out Morning Edition and All Things Considered and many fine programs. But there are several other companies that distribute public radio shows around the country. Local public radio stations get shows from all of them.

    "This American Life is produced in collaboration with WBEZ Chicago and delivered to stations by PRX-The Public Radio Exchange."]

    [(myl) OK, I've changed the text to "Public Radio" rather than "NPR"…]

    (2) When Mike says "Shoot me," while making the gun-to-the-temple-move, Alex informs him (presumably in her best "vocal fry" voice); "You're not doing it right."

    What is the "it"? My niece came back from summer break making this same move, and I told her to please stop it. Only now do I realize that it must be a "thing."

    Can anyone enlighten me?

  2. Philip Taylor said,

    January 27, 2019 @ 8:12 am

    Interesting that you spotted that gesture, Laura. Until you mentioned it, I assumed that he was simply resting his head on one hand, which could be seen as an indication of tiredness or frustration or both …

  3. CNH said,

    January 27, 2019 @ 8:19 am

    If you want to hear how British pronunciation has changed over the decades go to youtube and search for pathe newsreels. Try searching for 'Alec Douglas Home' or 'Anthony Eden'.

  4. Philip Taylor said,

    January 27, 2019 @ 8:34 am

    CNH — At least in those does one was governed by people whom one could respect, and who could be justifiably called "statesmen". I don't remember parliamentary debates from that era, but I cannot help but feel that they were probably considerably more edifying than those that take place in the Lower House today …

  5. Anthony said,

    January 27, 2019 @ 8:45 am

  6. Frans said,

    January 27, 2019 @ 8:54 am

    @Laura Morland

    My guess would be that you either say "shoot me" or you gesture it, rather than doing both at once.

    I first recall reading about finger guns some two decades ago, because one or more American teenagers were expelled for doing it, but the gesture itself didn't cross the ocean (or at least make it to my social circle in my part of the country).

  7. Trogluddite said,

    January 27, 2019 @ 9:32 am

    Old Etonian politicians and people deemed suitable to be Pathe/BBC newsreaders are hardly representative of "British" pronunciation; only of a particular accent (Received Pronunciation) which to varying degrees has been used as a marker for one's social class and one's suitability for certain occupations and positions of power. Some regional accents are closer to RP than others; but there was never a time when RP was used in everyday speech by the majority of Britons, despite the efforts of Pathe, the BBC, and our education system to convince us all of its correctness.

  8. Don Porges said,

    January 27, 2019 @ 11:23 am

    My reaction to "You're not doing it right" is that I only think of it expressed as "You're doing it wrong." Slate has/had a recurring feature with that name.

  9. Jamie said,

    January 27, 2019 @ 12:04 pm

    @Laura Moreland I thought the "not doing it right" comment was addressed to him still not being tolerant of the voices – bit maybe there was a deliberate ambiguity there

  10. rcalmy said,

    January 27, 2019 @ 12:17 pm

    @Laura Moreland

    Note that the font for Mike saying "Shoot me" is not the same font as the rest of his speech. It's kind of irregularly faded in places, which to my eye is reminiscent of the chunks taken out of the bold letters representing the vocal fry. So my surmise is that Mike is attempting to affect vocal fry but failing badly. Alex then teases him by telling him so with good vocal fry.

  11. Stephen said,

    January 27, 2019 @ 2:10 pm

    Agree with rcalmy.

  12. Bob Ladd said,

    January 27, 2019 @ 3:20 pm

    I also interpreted the final comment like rcalmy and stephen. (And I can't do it right either.)

  13. Bloix said,

    January 27, 2019 @ 5:33 pm

    The right way to do "shoot me" is shown here:
    PS- perhaps everyone is aware of this, and if so forgive me for mansplaining twice in one comment – but he's saying "shoot me" because of the use of "so."

  14. Vilinthril said,

    January 28, 2019 @ 5:52 am

    Agree with rcalmy et al.

  15. Philip Taylor said,

    January 28, 2019 @ 7:04 am

    "Mansplaining" ? Not at all. I wouldn't have picked up on either the "So", or on the font had it not been for kind and insightful analysts such as your good self and "rcalmy". Explanations and explications are always helpful, to my mind.

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