BLECH! *splik* BLECH! GAK!

I read this at the BBC and it disgusts me.  I believe it.

Men!  Talk like men!

More men speaking in girls’ ‘dialect’, study shows

More young men in California rise in pitch at the end of their sentences when talking, new research shows.

This process is known as “uptalk” or “valleygirl speak” and has in the past been associated with young females, typically from California or Australia.

But now a team says that this way of speaking is becoming more frequent among men.  [GAH!]

The findings were presented at the Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in California.

“We found use of uptalk in all of our speakers, despite their diverse backgrounds in socioeconomic status, ethnicity, bilingualism and gender,” said Amanda Ritchart, a linguist at the University of California who led the research.

“We believe that uptalk is becoming more prevalent and systematic in its use for the younger generations in Southern California,” she added.

The team recorded and analysed the voices of 23 native Californians aged between 18 and 22. The researchers were therefore not able to infer similar language patters in older Californians.

Sounding ditzy
People who speak uptalk are often misunderstood to be insecure, shallow or slightly dim, according to the team, who say this was not necessarily the case.  [Not… necessarily?  ?]

Speaking to the BBC’s Inside Science programme, co-author Amalia Arvanati, from the University of Kent, said it was hard to know how this process started.

“People talk about Frank Zappa’s song, Valley Girl. Finding out where it started is very difficult because we don’t have good records of how people use pitch.

“One possibility is that this is an extension of a pitch pattern that we actually find in most varieties of English which is used when you’re making a statement but you’re [also] asking indirectly for the interlocutor to confirm if they are with you,” Prof Arvaniti said.

She added that “uptalk” had negative connotations which made men less likely to admit to using it, but what was clear was that it was spreading.

“It grates on people, some people think it sounds really ditzy or insecure. This does not accurately come across like that to the native speakers.”

Women leaders
Claire Nance, a linguistics lecturer at Lancaster University, commented that the research reinforced the fact that uptalk was “increasingly widespread across all kinds of people”.

“Typically, women are trail-blazers in language change and take up innovative features first, then males start using them later. [Innovations… hmmm I believe that linguists will agree that language tends to simplify.]

“No spoken language ever remains stable and constant change is very much the norm. However, change often causes alarm among people who do not use an innovative feature, and uptalk appears to be another example of this trend,” Dr Nance added.

She explained that speakers may use uptalk to convey politeness or empathy with the listener, but that this was not always understood by non-uptalkers, perhaps due to its similarity to question intonation. [It sounds insecure.]

Alas, I am a language chameleon.  I quickly pick up the sounds of people as they speak.  That can be a curse and a blessing.

I will start monitoring myself for uptalk



A reader sent this.  Fun!  And… RIGHT!

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Our Catholic Identity, The Drill and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. majuscule says:

    This is, like, something I’ve been aware of subconsciously? I didn’t notice it particularly until I read the article and, like, you know, I can think about it and hear those guys’ voices in my head? And I’m here, you know, like in Northern California?

    (I have my own theory about this but I’m not going to state it here…)

  2. The Sicilian Woman says:

    I upchuck at the thought of uptalk.

  3. Alex S. says:

    The size of their sample group was twenty three people? How could that be a representative study?

  4. JacobWall says:

    We are all language chameleons. By nature, language is learned and adapted according to what is heard. So, the important part is not only to monitor *yourself* for “uptalk” – somewhat comparable to treating symptoms, and usually a good first step – but also monitoring those around you for it. If people you listen to regularly speak uptalk, you are likely to adopt some aspects of it. However, if you are aware of the source of the pattern you’ve picked up, it helps you put up some defenses.

    Depending on how comfortable you are with the people who infected you, it’s also helpful to correct them (or poke fun at them every time they do it.) Besides helping you become more actively aware of the source of the problem, it may also have the additional benefit of eliminating that source.

    I’ve tried this for undesirable speech patterns I’ve picked up and it works.

    (I’ve always thought it would be more satisfying to avoid speaking with these people all together and just use physical forms of negative reinforcement – perhaps a slap upside the head – to cure them of their problem, but some people may something about that being incompassionate, and it could cause other problems.)

  5. Hank Igitur says:

    “Upspeak” indicates a request for approval of, or agreement with, what has just been said by the up speaker. It asks “do you agree with what I have just said?” and turns a statement into a question as well. It is most common in certain working class areas in Australia, is commoner in females although not gender specific and is viewed by non upspeakers as a sign of social inferiority and by others as evidence of insecurity/lack of confidence/need for acceptance on the part of the user. It has been parodied in Australian television shows. In New Zealand the same dynamic is invoked by ending a sentence with “eh?” on an elevated vocal pitch added to the end of a statement. This NZ usage is gender neutral and widespread across social demographics. These phenomena are referred to in the Southern hemisphere as a rising inflection, a typically more “British” term than the American coinage of “upspeak”. The rising inflection term is usually considered pejorative. I would suggest the phenomenon reached California via Australia and New Zealand.

  6. vetusta ecclesia says:

    “Upspeak” is very common in UK among the young and is believed in part to be due to the influence and popularity of Australian teen soaps such as Neighbours (“see you at Neighbours o’clock” – heard in an Engilsh boarding school) and Home and Away. Other influences include the near universal “uni” and “this arvo”.

  7. Rachel K says:

    Always sounds like the speaker is asking a question, it is emasculating as it sounds weak.
    Strangely, I know a well-regarded Professor of physics who speaks like this all the time. My reaction? I feel like throttling him!

  8. James C says:

    AS IF I needed another reason to keep out of Mahonyland!

    Just horrifying to think that men are starting to talk like the gay guy in “Clueless”. I wonder if this development could be considered another part of the process of metrosexualization.

  9. pelerin says:

    I did not know that the rising inflection had reached America. Here in Britain it has been blamed on the younger generation watching Australian soaps and picking up from there. I do find it very annoying when a statement is made followed by what is in effect a vocal question mark. It seems to have spread to emails now too. One of my sons wrote telling me he was moving next week but added a question mark. So a statement becomes a question. To us older generation it seems weird.

  10. Sonshine135 says:

    I encountered “uptalk” when I started working with people in California on a regular basis. I have learned to adjust to this. As a southerner, I have been told that northerners find my speech to be slow, dimwitted, and methodical. I find the speech of a person from the northeast to be rapid, and lacking in appropriate annunciation.

    In short, unless you are a news broadcaster from the Midwest, you talk funny. Be careful about criticizing how others sound, because chances are that you sound funny to someone else as well.

  11. Zephyrinus1 says:

    Dear Fr Z.

    May I suggest that the 101st Airborne would disagree ?

    in Domino.

  12. incredulous says:

    As men flee colleges, church, families and all other leadership roles, we ultimately will be ruled by hedonistic, uptalking female satans such the likes of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer and Maxine Waters. We will deserve every bit of it? ;) ;) ;)

    Where the HELL are the rest of the men in this battle? Oh, we have John Boehner crying his way through it all as he sells us out on Obamacare, illegal immigration, liberty and freedom. Men, rise and defend souls in this Church Militant.

    Yesterday at my 9 o’clock NO, there wasn’t a SINGLE male alter server. Like EMHCs or not, I was the ONLY male in the group of 7. One of the EMHC’s commented on this ruling of women in the church and I said “now you own the responsibility of the outcome too.” She said, “that puts a different light on it, doesn’t it?”

  13. frjim4321 says:

    Wish they fad some clips. I’m not sure what they are referring to?

  14. Heather F says:

    ” [Innovations… hmmm… I believe that linguists will agree that language tends to simplify.]”

    Well, not really. Language just tends to change. If one thing does actually simplify, something else will generally become more complex. No one has actually taught that all languages are degenerate forms of Latin or some other “pure” language for centuries now.

    Rising intonation as a social cue isn’t actually dumbing down, it’s just that any new or different feature sounds “wrong” or “dumb” to someone who isn’t used to it.

    I imagine people were decrying the Great Vowel Shift as a sign of decadence, too.

  15. Mike says:

    This latest depreciation of spoken English isn’t surprising. Thoughtful speech that isn’t gushed out with elisions of “you know” (and now “so” — bah!) has competed poorly for as long as I can remember among people who apparently learned to talk by watching television.

    While one can only guess at the state of spoken German in the 15th century, one imagines such speech tics are among the irritants rued by Thomas a Kempis in Chapters 9-11 of Book I of The Imitation of Christ. For those of us who don’t share Thomas’ cloistered state, the only active antidote, as suggested by others here, is probably to be on the lookout for such nasty habits in one’s own speech. Yet another avenue for mortification.

  16. iPadre says:

    That’s California for ya! Maybe their next law will be that everyone has to be gay!

  17. pjsandstrom says:

    Have you never heard a ‘true Catholic Northern Irishman’ speaking English? — the intonation always sounds like they are asking questions — even though they are threatening murder, riots or other personal mayhem. [They are often nowadays very good people — but they still intonate English the ‘same old way’.]

  18. albinus1 says:

    You can hear the feminizing of men’s voices on the radio, esp. public radio. Announcers with resonant baritones, such as Robert Siegal and Bob Edwards, are increasingly being replaced, as they retire or move on, with more effeminate-sounding male announcers, such as Ira Glass.

  19. Liz says:

    It grates on people’s nerves for a reason. A while back I had the t.v. on, my teens were in the room and we came upon that t.v. talk show which is hosted by two males who are…ummm…more than friends. Anyway, the kids heard their voices and were so upset. What is wrong with them, Mom? It really bothered them. My kids had not really been exposed to those types of voices and it seemed really disturbing to them.

  20. The Masked Chicken says:

    I have presented a few papers to the Acoustical Society of America (in musical acoustics) and I have done acoustical studies of laughter. In doing trend studies, 23 people do not represent a sufficiently random sample for statistical purposes. Also, no longitudinal component seems to have been presented showing that this is a developing trend that did not exist 20 years, ago. Looking at 23 people, at best, provides a fuzzy snapshot of current practices. Indeed, the major flaw in the study, beyond the low sample size, is that they did NOT even try to look at age cohorts. If 10-20 year olds show a more pronounced uptalk effect and it gradually diminishes with age with the current population, this would be strong evidence of a trend. Unless the BBC summary is wrong or too simple, the results prove, essentially, nothing, in my opinion.

    The Chicken

  21. pontiacprince says:

    You know, I hadn’t heard of this until I read the blog this morning. At the end of the day it probably will be replaced by the lowering of the voice on the last word,eh?

  22. teomatteo says:

    “Alas, I am a language chameleon. I quickly pick up the sounds of people as they speak. ”

    I too tend to even take on an accent when I’m speaking with someone who may have English as a second language. Its what I call the ‘Zelig Effect’

  23. oldCatholigirl says:

    Although I have watched, appalled, for years at the increasing feminization of society and the Church, and, of course, the (successful) push toward glorification of sexual deviance, I agree with the Chicken– this particular study is worthless. The anecdotal evidence from the U. K. about Australian (and Northern Irish?) speech patterns seems more significant to me. And I have observed an increasing tendency to punish men for reacting/sounding like men (unless it is men of the coarsest habits of speech; those habits have been adopted by both sexes, to the great impoverishment of expression).
    OTOH, when declaring anything to anyone whom I do not know very well, I cannot assume that we share even what used to be the most basic values, so I probably speak in a more questioning tone than one would in a more homogeneous society. I don’t want to inadvertently offend anyone, and give my own (excellent) values even less chance to be understood. Nor do I want to waste time “tippy-toeing” around agreed-upon principles. Also, if I’m telling anyone how to do anything, I like to check along the way to make sure they’re getting it–again resulting in a less commanding tone of voice. Of course, there’s no worry about my sounding like a woman–I am one.:)

  24. JohnnyZoom says:

    I’d like to get all the uptalkers and all the vocal fryers (remember them?) together in one room and let them speech to the death.

  25. Darren says:

    I recall, upon returning to NJ after my first business trip to Texas back in – I believe it was 1994 – that I had that ‘Texas twang’ for a few days. It was cool at first, but after a while I didn’t like the idea. Somehow, after many trips over the years to Texas, the south, and other places I doesn’t happen anymore.

    I feel a certain sense of healthy pride when my ole Jersey City accent comes out. The area in and around Jersey City has a unique accent that differs from the NYC accent(s) and the typical North Jersey accent most are familiar with. There is nothing effeminate about the Jersey City accent! :)

    I have noticed more and more men with effeminate speech and manners on television (news AND “entertainment”) and it is a very disturbing trend. Our culture is just forcing this upon us. Yet another good reason for homeschooling.

  26. OrthodoxChick says:


    Here’s 4 guys spoofing this phenomenon of guys who talk like girls. They over-do it in the interest of comedy, but you’ll get the general idea. For anyone with kids at home, there are one or two swear words in this video, so you may want to view it when the kiddos aren’t by your side.

  27. pannw says:

    Well, it may be a worthless study due to sample size, but I don’t think it is easy to miss that it is happening. One only need watch a program or two with teen celebrities to see it is probably really happening. Though it is disturbing to think that this is yet one more way our men are becoming effeminate, the actual speech pattern can not be nearly so annoying as the use of ‘like’ every second word. Arghhh… My husband and I are constantly on our children to prevent them like, you know, sounding like, you know, like morons. They have friends who are, surprisingly enough, quite bright in school, but sound like complete illiterates, totally incapable of expressing their thoughts. Painful to listen to! I want to cry, “Stop saying LIKE!” as I do to my own when they let it creep into their speech.

  28. I’m in Cork where everything they say sounds like a question! The accent is high and lilted so that it is both musical and interrogative with the end of every sentence going ‘upwards’. The men are not so bad but the women can become shrill. They use ‘like’ all over the place (where Dubs say ‘right’ but without the ‘t’) and every man is ‘boy’, every woman ‘girl’. They are a warm, welcoming people but if only they, and the rest of the world, sounded like the good people of Dublin it would be so much easier.

    That said when I saw there were only 23 young people in the study I knew this was for the birds. I was once assured that unless one had at least 1000 no survey was statistically accurate. Juat more academics getting paid for irrelevant work.

  29. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    The good new is that in Chicago women and men still talk like people who’ll break your thumbs if you’re late on a payment. Next time your in town, Father, youse come by me. I’m at about 800 hunnert nort an one tousand west.

  30. Priam1184 says:

    There are many signs in speech of the world being dumbed down, and with the spread of open homosexuality men talking like women has become a much more accepted thing, though I am not sure about this particular example. Rising intonation can mean a lot of things. One of the places I notice the dumbing down effect the most is among women themselves: I encounter so many women in the course of my work on a day to day basis who are in their thirties and forties but who speak like they are in middle school.

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  32. Legisperitus says:

    I am a longtime student of linguistics and take delight in learning regional dialects and accents, even the latest slang. But this, I sense, is something different. As Lynda Mugglestone points out in her book “Talking Proper: The Rise and Fall of the English Accent as a Social Symbol,” speech that is regarded as “improper” has both exclusive and inclusive functions: it marks the speaker as an outsider in “proper” circles, but simultaneously as an insider in a particular subculture.

    Every instinct in me says this “uptalk” phenomenon is the intrusive influence of an aggressive “gay” subculture in a media-saturated America where “gays” are increasingly presented as role models (as Prof. E. Michael Jones puts it, “The Homosexual as Ideal Citizen”). It seems not just one of those natural changes in language; in fact, quite the opposite.

  33. Elizium23 says:

    As a receptionist in the parish office and spending a lot of time on the phone, I have to watch myself for this. I am already conscious of doing it frequently in situations where I have a good length of “scripted” monologue. A prime example is when I am calling people to notify them that their liturgical schedules are available for pickup. It mostly happens when I speak into the many voicemail and answering machine messages. So I strive for a more natural tone. It can also creep in when I am recording those outgoing messages everyone hates to listen to.

    I have always been aware of it when others speak and it does annoy me. So when I find myself using it, I try to be vigilant and aware, and nip it in the bud. I am sure our parishioners will thank me for it.

  34. Dcduo says:

    Damn it! I had been self conscious lately about my voice, I was afraid that I might have been saying things in a whimpy way without meaning to, but I haven’t been able to pinpoint it. This seems to be it.

    Thank you very much for pointing this out Father. It’s no real surprise that it was published under the BBC, the UK definitely has the highest number of fruitcakes that I have ever seen (that is, not just people with SSA, which is quite possible, but just plain men not acting, walking, talking or dressing like men).

    And I say that with the semi-authority of being in northern Ireland.

  35. BLB Oregon says:


    Uptalk may be a way to achieve a dumbed-down effect. An actual insecurity may arise from the fear that one’s peers could discover that one could even remotely be described as either “deep” or “bright,” which is to say “a geek.”

    I wish it were not so, but it is possible to be thought a geography geek because you let on that you can find the Pacific Ocean on a map. Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it correctly and let on that you’re not!

  36. mike cliffson says:

    If you yourself should – God between us and evil!-catch this unmanly verbal tick , you know what to do:
    Use only latin orally , other wise speak softly, stride forth becassocked, and carry a pair of BIIIG be/irrettas, one per spelling.

  37. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Actually, the leaders of linguistic change in the US are middle-aged men. There is considerable linguistic evidence that men in the West and certain parts of the South have been using uptalk for a long time. For example, old recordings of Woody Guthrie from the 1930’s. Heck, a fair amount of old recordings of grizzled old cowboy musicians from the 1930’s. (There’s even a fair amount of uptalk in old Westerns, mostly by old geezer sidekicks.)

    Teenage girls from California are just more noticeable, because they have high-pitched voices and, like, toss their hair around?

  38. Suburbanbanshee says:

    And no, I’m not talking about the “gay subculture” version of uptalk. That’s a totally different sound, even though it shares certain characteristics with it.

  39. MarkJ says:

    I am dreading the day when someone decides to celebrate an “uptalk liturgy”… The Lord be with you? And with your spirit?… The Word of the Lord? Thanks be to God?… The Mass is ended? Go in peace? Thanks be to God?…

    You could even do this is Latin…

    I am absolutely positive that this would never happen?

  40. Cafea Fruor says:

    Maybe I’m a masculine woman, but I sure as heck don’t speak in uptalk, and I’m mildly annoyed that someone suggests that it’s “feminine” to speak that way. Yes, many women speak that way, but they’re all the insecure women I know that do, and, quite frankly, I find it attrocious from men and women alike.

  41. Mr. Green says:

    This is nothing new, it has been going on since last century. I’m not sure how it fits in with Australian patterns of speech, since Australian has a different cadence from other forms of English. I certainly don’t know why it would count as a “girl’s dialect” (nor does the story itself support such a headline!); I’ve noticed it in both sexes, and I fully agree with Cafea Fruor that it is not to be recommended for anyone. My own guess is that omnipresent questioning is encouraged by the relativistic and anti-intellectual culture we live in… or perhaps I’m reading too much into it.

    I do recommend this nice poem that addresses the issue:

  42. Sue in soCal says:

    The Valley Girl dialect is rampant among priests in my diocese – LA archdiocese.
    I want priests with big boy voices, please. . .

  43. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    “Canadian, eh?”

    “What, me worry?”

    How do or do not Winston Churchill’s speech patterns fit into this picture? (Try, e.g., “Winston Churchill The Threat Of Nazi Germany 16th Nov 1934” on YouTube.)

    Why does the Slavonic way of chanting the epistle have such a different effect?

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