Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Modern Speech

Virginia Postrel links to a piece by Meghan Daum in which she wonders why more women seem to talk like little girls these days. Bob Corff, a speech coach quoted in the article, makes a broader point about men and women:

Corff thinks a high-pitched voice that rises at the end of sentences signifies a lack of accountability for one's words. He also pointed out that in a culture that tends to have a hair-trigger reaction to even the mildest form of dissent, speaking with authority can be a dangerous prospect. "Years ago, people prided themselves on communicating," Corff said. "Today, they're afraid they'll get in trouble for saying the wrong thing. When your speech dies away or goes up at the ends of phrases, you're saying, 'I'm not sure what I mean,' and sometimes people feel safer that way."

I've noticed both the high-pitched, chipmunk voices in supposedly grown women and the rising inflection at the end of every sentence in both sexes.

The Betty Boop voices are probably bound up in the female sex's desire to attract men. They have the perverse idea that talking like a child is more attractive, and it probably is for many young men. A woman who talks like a confident, grown-up woman can be intimidating to a man of low self-esteem. Perhaps the women who speak girly talk are women of low self-esteem seeking someone at their level.

Ayn Rand made a fascinating comment in one of her question and answer sessions that the idea that a woman loses sexual desirability when she ages is a holdover from the middle ages. In the middle ages, when people did not live long, a woman was getting old at 20. As capitalism extends life, I certainly hope our culture revises its thinking about mature women being sexually desirable. It would be a shame if women spent four fifths of their lives being ignored by men. With the current generation of young women talking like Helen Kane, we seem to have taken a step backward.

The habit of making statements sound like questions is, I think, tied into our increasing conformism and the decline of the virtue of independence. When someone turns a statement into a question, he is signaling, "I'm not making a flat statement of what I think, but if you give me a sign you agree, then we'll go with it." This is a person who is more interested in agreement and getting along with other people than in identifying the facts of reality.

Somehow I can't hear John Galt saying, "Er, A is A? Like, existence exists?"

6 comments:

Gus Van Horn said...

"The habit of making statements sound like questions is, I think, tied into our increasing conformism and the decline of the virtue of independence. When someone turns a statement into a question, he is signaling, 'I'm not making a flat statement of what I think, but if you give me a sign you agree, then we'll go with it.'"

I have noticed this for years and found it very annoying, but only in the past couple of years began to realize that this was a method of seeking assent.

I have noticed that some people, rather than communicating with words, attempt to bond socially, expressing banalities they are all but certain others will accept. Such conversations end up being tediously repetitive very quickly and bore me to hell and back. (Would that some social scientist would look for a correlation between sentences ending in verbal question marks and conversations about global warming!)

I have sometimes even suspected the verbal question mark has been used as a means of intimidation, typically when a stranger is being introduced to the like-thinking pack.

Very interesting post.

(And my substantial agreement with your post does not constitute, in any way, an accusation that you wrote it with an implied verbal question mark!)

Myrhaf said...

Thanks, Gus. With political correctness and the "socialization" done by progressive education, a lot of people are afraid of disagreement.

EdMcGon said...

Myrhaf,
I think your post is all wrong and your view of the world is skewed!

Just kidding. I figured none of the sheep in the world would challenge your point, so the contrarian in me had to say it. ;)

Myrhaf said...

I can always depend on you to keep me honest, Ed.

Jennifer Snow said...

If this goes on any longer I'm going to be so aggressively un-sexy by modern "standards" that I'm going to have to wear a bag on my head and only go out at night.

I have a fairly flexible voice so I *can* talk like a little girl, but I only use it when I want to communicate: "not interesting, go away".

Dinesh Pillay said...

Awesome post Myrhaf! The last line was hilarious!

- Dinesh