01/08/2013 01:49 pm ET

Why Old Men Find Young Women's Voices So Annoying

Last week, Slate Lexicon Valley podcaster (and NPR On the Media host) Bob Garfield lamented a frightening tic invading American speech. It appears “almost exclusively among women, and young women at that.” As these women form sentences, Garfield explains, “something happens to their voice, as if they have a catch in their throat.” He summons his 11-year-old daughter Ida to the microphone to mimic the speech pattern. “Ida,” he instructs her, “be obnoxious.”

The affect of which Garfield speaks is known as “creaky voice” or “vocal fry,” a gravelly lowering of the voice that conjures the sounds of “a door creaking or a hinge that needs oiling.” Over the course of the 26-minute podcast, Garfield describes the speech pattern as “vulgar,” “repulsive,” “mindless,” “annoying,” and “really annoying.” “I want the oil to stop frying,” Garfield says. “I want someone to wave a magic wand over a significant portion of the American public”—you know, women—“and have the frying come to an end.”

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