Boys Do it Too! Male Verbal Crutches

Unknown-2Isn’t it great when science backs us up?  The recent study from researchers at the University of Miami and Duke University has led to a national conversation since they found that vocal fry may undermine the success of young women in the labor market.

The story has rightly been covered by a host of women’s magazine as well as NPR, TIME and The Atlantic, which hit the jackpot when it found a video clip of Zooey Deschanel, the “new girl,” or shall we say, the “fry girl,” showcasing this verbal fashion trend at its most irritating and ear-bending.


But, what about boys and men; are they also riddled with verbal tics, up-speak and vocal fry? 

Betheny Brookshire at Science Magazine reported that previous studies have looked at vocal fry only in women, but this recent study in the online journal of PLOS looked at men too and found that “while both men and women suffered from the use of vocal fry, women suffered more.”

She was able to point to one male offender, Ira Glass of “This American Life.”

An unscientific survey of my friends’ boys has revealed that they also are riddled with the “like syndrome.”  At a recent noisy Bar Mitzvah celebration, a friend told me that her son drove her crazy saying “like,” “the entire car ride over.” She was like, ready to strangle him!

GQ Magazine Reporter Renee Dale’s recent story entitled, “I like, love you?” makes a hilarious case that men are also part of this sociolinguistic scourge.  She examines upspeak – when a would-be statement ends instead in a high-rising intonation and lands as a question.  She says, “Male upspeak is the scariest trend since man-leggings: Dudes are starting to sound like extras from Clueless.”   And, Dale gives an example spoofing our political leaders.

Obama to Putin: “We need you to, like, stop invading Ukraine?”

Putin to Obama: “Um, I’d like to see you try and stop me?”

images-3What about other male verbal crutches?  How about all of the cursing?  It’s no surprise that boys and men interject curses into their speech to make them sound powerful and cool – but is it F-ing necessary!?  Some men I know can’t even get out a sentence without a few F-bombs carelessly dropped.

According to Speech-Language Pathologist Marci Macaluso, “Cursing says, ‘I speak your language. We’re in the same club dude. It’s tribal.”

And, then there is the mumble factor, or lazy-lip syndrome. Check out this YouTube video of two young men illustrating why men need to stop mumbling. They claim that mumbling is a side-affect of social anxiety, especially when it comes to women and dating.  (Are we really that intimidating?).

It starts early.  A friend of mine is a 5th grade English teacher.  Her explanation?  “To lessen their accountability, boys mumble, talk really fast, or qualify their ideas with, “what I mean is…”

So, yes, boys and men do it too.  They are also guilty of the “likes,” the upspeak, as well as their own verbal crutches including cursing and mumbling.  However, are they judged as harshly as girls and young women?

According to Lena Roy, young adult author and director of the Westchester branch of Writopia Labs, “Although we are gallantly striving towards breaking away from a patriarchal society, it’s still so much easier to dismiss girls and women because of vocal tics. In the same breath, I think that lack of confidence is equal opportunity.”

What do you think?  Does a woman’s success depend more on the sound of her voice than a man’s?

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