News reports this week revealed two dead vocal giveaways you’re a woman. Not that you need to, but here’s how science says you can un-sex your speaking voice:
Step 1: Fix your S sound.
In a University of Colorado Boulder study picked up by The Atlantic, the likelihood a transgender man would “pass” vocally depended less on the pitch of his overall voice than on the pitch of his S sound. “For example, two speakers, ‘Joe’ and ‘Kam,’ spoke at the same frequency, but with different ‘s’ pitches. All of the listeners identified the former as male and the latter as female.”
Step 2: Ditch your vocal “fry” or “creaky voice.”
The trend of ending one’s sentences with a deep, creaky elongation of your voweeeeeuuuuls is widespread but limited almost exclusively to women (and young women in particular), Slate’s Lexicon Valley podcast reports. By now you probably already know to do this, as the trend has been covered to death. Never mind that vocal fry may serve the paralinguistic function of conveying irony, Slate’s Bob Garfield finds it “really annoying” and “repulsive,” and he wishes he could “wave a magic wand” over all the young women of America to make it stop.
Slate reports that because a vocal fry is perceived as sophisticated and authoritative by other women — and because it pitches a woman’s voice about as low as a man’s — it may simply reflect women’s unconscious attempt to sound more like the men who have so graciously welcomed them into the workplace. Either way, teenage girls are at the avant-garde of communication, so if vocal fry is anything like uptalk (raising your voice at the end of a declarative sentence so it sounds like a question?), men will be doing it soon, too.