Tuesday, April 29, 2014

No, Males Don't Do "Uptalk"!

"Uptalk" is one of the most annoying and cloying habits that appears to have crept into the realm of modern conversation, and it drives the heck out of many of us 60s era throwbacks. If you've ever been a college teacher - or even secondary school, it is guaranteed to drive you nuts. Here's an example: you ask your physics class for any one application of Newton's second law of motion. A lass in the front row daintily raises her hand and you're encouraged because all too often the females in the class keep their hands out of view. She replies:

"Um, it would be like if you pulled a cart a little faster?"

Ending with an infuriating higher rising lilt and a question-like tone.

But you're not asking for a question, you want a definitive answer! No pauses, no higher rising tones, just short, snappy and definite, like:

"Pulling a cart a little faster, sir!"


No one knows just how this socio-linguistic scourge got its start but some theorize it emerged in the late 1980s and 1990s with the "Val gal" (Valley girl) phenomenon, depicted in the 1983 movie by the same name. Others believe it's a later manifestation of how young females communicated with peers that then expanded to include (now) how some males communicate with them.  It's enough to make you rip your hair out.

Two recent studies confirm males are more and more going the up speak route to the consternation of parents, and even friends. Sociologist Thomas J. Linneman, for example, found a disturbing incidence among male contestants on Jeopardy!  This most often occurred when ringing in to correct an answer already given by a female contestant. What - the guy is afraid of upsetting the female by delivering a crisp declarative response?

The second study by linguists based at the University of California, San Diego, found that even though young women up speak twice as much as young men (especially over ages 18-22) the men do it too. According to one New York Times columnist: "Men don't think they do it, but they do!"

Why? One snarky writer has asked whether it's "a new generation of sensitive guys trying to sound like women in order to relate to them."  If that's the case it would be taking a leaf out of the self-help NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) books which advocate that in order to be in synch with someone you need to "mirror" them. That means emulating not only their body posture but the way they speak. In the case of a guy sitting and conversing with a young woman it would mean imitating her up speak as well as posture.

But that is pathetic. No right thinking male of the 1960s would ever do such a thing, even those of the hippie persuasion. A male then spoke and postured as a male, not an imitation female. And he sure as hell didn't lilt his voice to make it softer, or use phrases in up speak!

As one observer has put it: "This dialect has never shed its airhead baggage and never will."

And as he adds:

"I don't care if you trade credit default swaps or splice stem cells. If you're upspeaking I don't trust you to slice bologna!"

Well, maybe just slicing a few pieces.

The bottom line is that guys who upspeak leave themselves open to exploitation as well. I mean, hell, if you have to use that quavery little school girl voice your partner might take that as license to do whatever she wants, and at your expense. Maybe take your credit card and use it to buy herself a new wardrobe. What....you're going to chew her ass out in upspeak?

Males have deep voices for a reason:  to project them in assorted exchanges and to be and sound definitive if not emphatic. If you're talking in upspeak you lose your maleness by default and become an imitation of a female and no one - certainly no male worth his salt - will take your lilting delivery seriously - even if you're talking about cosmic strings or general relativity. Bear in mind McLuhan's words: "The medium is the message".

My inclination, if I hear some jack wad  upspeaking? To find the largest, meanest-looking  tarantula I can and drop it right onto him.  Then he can do some real upspeaking!

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