Right. In a past blog I vocalized the irksomeness of languid talkers – those whose voice boxes sound as though they’re suffering from Epstein-Barr Syndrome and can’t drum up the energy for even a cheery ‘hi’. I would blame the Kardashians for bringing to bear this prevailing blight on the ear drums but I eschew giving them credit for anything. Are quaaludes making a comeback? Is that what’s causing this vocal lethargy? Stop the ‘ludes and knock back a couple of Red Bulls, for God’s sake.
Moving along. I am here today to talk about up talkers. Uptalking is the annoying habit – and it is a habit – and a habit which needs to be broken - as the French would say, ‘tout de suite’[pronounced: toot sweet]. Which translates to: immediately. Uptalking is related to Valleygirl speak but in a third cousin twice removed sort of way. And whereas few males used Valleygirl speak – generally the festive ones - statistics show more males are embracing uptalking . And it’s not relegated to Southern California. I am distressed to say some of the males who have taken uptalking to their ersatz bosom are well educated journalists who regularly speak on NPR.
Radio, as we all know, is an auditory medium. We, the listeners, cannot be distracted by the attractiveness or lack thereof of the speaker or spiffy graphics that swirl about in the background. All we’ve got are the words. And the words are rising in timbre. And not just at the end of sentences that harbor a question mark. It sometimes seems as if every 3rd or 4th word is emphasized in a quizzical tone which undermines the intelligence of the speaker and affixes that (perhaps unfair) label of airhead.
When exactly this uptalking began to infiltrate the lexicon, I don’t know. I wonder is it an American anomaly or is it prevalent in France, Germany, Italy, Ukraine, etc., and what the non-uptalkers there make of it. Should the funding be made available, I would venture to investigate further. On the up side (no pun intended), we do know that it’s a phase and will and should peter out of the vernacular before 2020 – or so the experts tell us (and by experts I mean me). After all, Valleygirl speak was popular (and by popular I mean it was spoken but also mocked) in the early 80’s. [Frank Zappa’s Valley Girl song came out in 1982.] By my calculations, if a Valleygirl speaker was 15 in 1980, then she was born in 1965. She’d be 50 years old now and would look pretty strange if she hadn’t dropped the Valleygirl speak before menopause struck . [“So, like, I’ve been getting these gnarly hot flashes…”]
I’m not certain if uptalking is a syndrome or disorder of sorts but it is definitely something that needs squelching, and fast. Fear not, there’s no need for hokey telethons with D-list performers singing and tap dancing while 800 numbers flash across the bottom of your screen. The cure doesn’t cost a dime. It’s totally free.
Some of you may know I was a reluctant reader until around sixth grade. Then, as P.G. Wodehouse would say, ‘the scales fell from my eyes’ and I was off and running. However, until that time, while I enjoyed school for the most part, standing and reading aloud in class gave me the willies.
This unease was most likely based on my fear of coming across an unfamiliar word that would cause me to stumble over its pronunciation which would set some of my classmates off in sniggers. Two words in particular stick with me today – the name Penelope – which I had neither read nor heard until then and so I pronounced it: Pen-a-lope. Apparently some of my classmates had heard the name and the sniggering commenced. Woe is me when soon after that I came upon hyperbole and again, having never read or heard it before, I pronounced it: hyper-bole. This was not met with another helping of sniggers as no one else in the class had heard it before. Lucky reprieve there.
But I digress. Uptalking. Yes. Spoiler alert: I was an early uptalker. Afflicted with uptalking if you like (and this was pre-Valleygirl speak – always ahead of my time). Just thinking about it and I am transported back to that classroom. The smell of chalk, baloney sandwiches, and Dennis Jeffries (he was a bed wetter). I can once again feel the brown paper bag cover on my reader, hear the crinkle of it as I pressed the splayed spine open and tried to scan ahead for that most dreaded of punctuation symbols – the question mark. Due to my lack of interest in reading up to that point, I had not acquired the knack of natural reading. When I saw a question mark looming at the end of a sentence, I hitched my voice up a notch and read the entire sentence in a questioning manner rather than just at the end bit.
Fortune smiled upon me as did my teacher, Miss Taccia. She was one of those people born to teach and she reveled in it. I recall her dark hued tulip-shaped skirts having splotches of white chalk down the right side where she’d wipe her hand after writing on the board. It was with her patience and gentle guidance that I was able to grasp how the whole question mark/voice rising thing worked and I only raised the querying pitch of my voice at the proper spot. Miss Taccia was an uptalker squelcher.
So, you may well ask, how can I (meaning you) [someone lacking the patience and caring of Miss Taccia] help to stamp out, eradicate, and put an end to this uptalking nonsense?
Fighting fire with fire is a technique worth utilizing. If someone, male or female, begins to speak to you in uptalking, don’t just roll your eyes or clench your fists in submission, will yourself to be an auditory mirror for them to hear their irksome and misguided speech patterns. But not a regular mirror, be a funhouse mirror. Whip out your best Valleygirl speak for your response. If they ask why you’re suddenly talking like that, if you like to avoid confrontations – and apparently you do if you haven’t mustered the courage to tell them to stop uptalking - you can be passive-aggressive and say you thought they were going for the Valleygirl speak but hadn’t quite gotten the hang of it. But, if you’re strong and don’t care what people think of you, you can simply state that you are an uptalking squelcher and are performing this impromptu mini-intervention to hasten the end of their awkward phase. And though they may appear put off at first, they’ll thank you in the end.