Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ohh mah gaaahhd, like, I know gurrls like thaaat

There's a funny and quite interesting article in the NY Observer about the phenomenon of girls in the northeast, and especially in New York, who speak a certain way. “The Affect,” the paper dubs it.

To give you a flavor:

“I laaaaahv a diiiiivey baaaaaahr,” said a girl with a voice that could crack the ice in her vodka tonic. It was her third drink. She was sitting with a friend at Duke’s (the “divey bar”) on 19th Street off Park Avenue South, wearing a periwinkle scarf around her neck and zebra-print shoes on her feet. She was in her late 20’s, had thick, dark eyebrows and straight, shiny brown hair worn in a long ponytail. She looked like a million other girls in New York: attractive but not pretty, stringy but not skinny, smart but not all that intelligent.

“People’re li-yike, ‘Oh my Gaaaaahd. You luh-iiiiive abu-huuuuv Fawer-teeeeenth Shtreeeeet?’”


“They may sound something like the whining sorority girls you steered clear of in college. But they just may also be the latest innovators of the English language. They can turn any item on a menu into an ancient Greek’s ritual lament (Stooooohhhleee owwrindge and taaaahnick!). They can separate emphasis from meaning, transforming the most straight-faced declarations into squeaky questions (“I haiiiiight haaaahr soooh maaaahch?”). They speak in sprawling, hyperbolic anecdotes, packed with pronouns—“he’s like” and “I’m like” and “she goes” and “he goes” and “I was all” and “he was all,” and so on.”

The Observer writer captures the phenomenon quite accurately, so go read it for the whole wonderful flavor.

It really is quite stunning how often I meet women who are, presumably, educated, went to good colleges, have good jobs -- and they speak like 8th grade Valley girls.

The piece also points out how the English language has and continues to evolve over the years, including the great Vowel Shift from approximately the 15th to 17th centuries, in which the way people pronouced words actually changed.

It also cites linguists who say that women tend to be the language innovators, as they are often the gatekeeps of the language, scolding their children if they pronounce words incorrectly.

That's actually sort of scary if the language is in the hands (mouths?) of some of the girls I meet out and about this town. Like, you know?


Anonymous said...

ohmawgaahhd that's liike so unfaaaaaair, you know! :)

Anonymous said...

I've heard those voices and accents too! I laugh at them.

Anonymous said...

haha that's a pretty funny article, and I know so many people who end every sentence with a question mark sound, whether it's a question or not. I usually just figure they are insecure but the article says it came from Australia. Interesting.

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