Curmudgeon Speak

By Kit Hayden | Jun 07, 2014
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Newcastle — I have a bad habit of listening to the NPR Morning Report.  It’s a rare day when there isn’t a story about something so asinine that it makes me drop my fork.  I heard the other day that a second grader had been arrested for terrorism.  2nd grader?  Aren’t we carrying this terrorist thing a little too far?  It seems that Johnny (name changed to protect the guilty) threatened a pal on the school bus with a jackknife.  The bus was stopped; the perp apprehended and taken to the school principal who suspended him for ten days. Sigh.  Safety, safety; can’t have enough of that.

Somebody, obviously desperate for original research to garner a meaningless academic degree, has determined that more people die in hurricanes with female names than in those with male names.  The theory is that females are not taken as seriously, or are not seen as so threatening, so people take fewer precautions.  I suppose that’s conceivable.  I suggest we name all hurricanes Adolf or Vladimir and save the population.

Speech affectations are a particular peeve of mine.  I knew a chap in grad school who effected the snobbiest of British accents—the upper class, Eton type.  The guy was from Nebraska.  Remember valleyspeak?  It was the rage in the 70’s and 80’s, pretty much confined to the distaff side.  For my part, as soon as that whine came out of a girl’s mouth I wanted nothing to do with her; no matter how bodacious the burgeoning of her bosom.  Valleyspeak is characterized by rising intonation at the end of a statement, suggesting interrogative.  Why should this grate on my ear?  I know that everything in life is a question.  Every Buddhist understands that.  Beware dualism!

Although it has been around for fifty-odd years I only recently learned (on NPR) of vocal fry, or glottalization, a sort of lower register rumbling, especially at the end of a declarative statement.  (The opposite of valleyspeak?) It is also described as “creaky speech.”   According to Wikipedia, scientists (with nothing useful to do) at Long Island University “investigated the prevalence of vocal fry in college-age women.” Women are far more likely to have this speech impediment than men.  The good news is: “Abdelli-Beruh says the creak is unlikely to damage vocal cords because speakers didn't creak continuously or even at the end of every sentence.”  Well thank God for that!  Anyway, I have often heard vocal fry, even if I didn’t previously know its name, and I’ll have nothing to do with a lass who uses it; no matter how rapaciously I may rapturously regard her ravishingly robust, ripe rump.  Oof!

One last rant about a subject I complained of in the local paper.  I recently visited Rite Aid to purchase a flagon of spirits to dull my perception of all that is wrong with this world.  The checkout clerk, sporting fluorescent hair, advised me that soon the establishment would be carding everyone purchasing alcohol or tobacco.  Ridiculous; not necessarily the hair, a man has a right to dye his locks blue, pink, orange and yellow if he so chooses, but the ruling.  I queried if I was to be included.  “Everyone.”  As I wrote in the paper, I’m so old a koala bear could tell I’m over twenty-one.  I don’t even remove my shoes at the security line in the airport.  I’m not acquiescing to this nonsense.  I’m tempted to get a fake ID that shows my age as 17.  I might offer them that.

More recently I returned to Rita Aid for another bottle of mind-numbing bromide.  He had spoken the truth!  “Do you have your ID?”  “Sure, but I’m not showing it to you.”  “Then I can’t sell you this product.”  So I left.

I have just visited a shaman who has prescribed a fourth palliative to combat my melancholy and despondency.  The first three have been ineffective, if you don’t count disagreeable side effects.  Of course I’m depressed (what Jane Gardam calls “the maudlin armour of dotage).  I am surrounded, besieged by the incomprehensible peculiarities of my fellow planet dwellers.  No drug will combat this.  A friend suggests I stop listening to NPR.  That’s probably good advice.

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