Currently, the ‘vocal fry’ appears in the news with predictable regularity.
It is a habit that has been sporadically heard in movie stars since sound was added to the early ‘motion pictures’.
The ‘fry’ is a bubbling or crackling sound which emerges from the throat.
It occurs when the voice is held back in the glottis – the physical space in which voice is made.
As the sound is created, its position, trapped in the glottis or at the back of the throat, causes additional sympathetic vibrations to occur in the area of the true and false vocal folds. This gives rise to a creaking, groaning or crackly quality in the voice.
Many young women have adopted this practice from observing movie stars and other cultural icons. Role models abound. And, depending on how intensely they are valued and admired, their fans adopt their voice habits and practices. Once you have identified the quality of ‘the vocal fry’ you will hear it everywhere. It often occurs at the ends of sentences and in sounds that can be sustained because of their length.
Men, too, use the vocal fry, but it does not draw as much attention to itself because fewer assumptions are attached to how they sound when it is evident.
Voice impact coaches and speech therapists abhor the practice because it does not support best functioning of the voice itself.
The vocal fry has the potential to do damage to the delicate membranes and tissues. Hence their advice is to avoid it and ensure that the voice is placed in the mouth rather than in the throat.
As long as the vocal fry is deemed ‘sexy’, ‘attractive’ and ‘appealing’, it will continue to exist.
As a suggestion, it may be worthwhile highlighting to youthful speakers that the vocal fry is likely to be a constant companion in their speech when they age, particularly if they were determined to develop it as a habit in their youthful years!
I have noticed that incongruence in perception arises when ‘sexy’, ‘attractive’ and ‘ageing’ occur in the same sentence. When put forward this way, the habit reduces… and even disappears.
My recommendation is this: ‘If you value your voice, you won’t follow the herd and you will avoid using ‘the fry’’.