Everyone Totes Copying How Young Women, Like, Talk and StuffS

In the eighties, Valley Girlspeak permeated young women's interactions with each other. In the nineties? Young ladies? Were ending things? With a question mark? Now, women end their phrases with a low growl, a la Britney Spears before she needed to be left alone. And in ten years or so, everyone will be ending growling their way out of sentences, because no one sets vocal trends like teen girls. And while that's not a bad thing, the ways in which teen girls use their voices as weapons is a little terrifying.

In the past, trendy speech patterns of young women have been ridiculed as being a function of their stupidity or silliness, but some linguists argue that the Teen Girl Squad is actually comprised of in-tune vocal pioneers that everyone will be imitating in a decade and a half. The Times reports that young women's linguistic patterns shouldn't be derided as aural abominations, but rather be recognized as sophisticated style choices designed to affect a desired social outcome. In many cases, young women use novel speech patterns as a means by which to establish social dominance over others.

Uptalk, or inserting invisible question marks after words that are not at the end of a sentence, is sometimes used by women to dominate each other in conversation. A study conducted in the early nineties found that girls in a Texas sorority would use it to try to speak over each other, or when giving each other commands. And now everyone's doing it.

Sporadic deployment of the word "like," once thought to be an idle placeholder for people who can't think of anything better to say, is used to provide emphasis in a sentence. "This color is terrible" means something different than "This color is, like, terrible." And, like, everyone says "like" nowadays. In a generation, legislators will pass the "Can't War Just, Like, Stop?" appropriations bill.

It seems that the all-the-rage vocal fry has a purpose as well. While it was originally heard among Brits attempting to establish to their speaking companion that they were in a higher social class, it's now used by teen girls to indicate boredom. Nothing is cool to teenagers than to be totally over everything. In other cases, women use it so they sound more authoritative. Like Batman.

Whatever their desired outcome, teen girls are leading the pack set in both vocal inflections and ability to act in ways that technically constitute emotional terrorism. Follow their lead, or risk being ridiculed to tears.

They're Like Way Ahead of the Curve [NYT]