Creaky Voice and the use of like to, like, introduce a quotation are two female-pioneered vocal trends that have gained universal recognition. Now we can add word elongation to the list. In an Atlantic article this week, Jen Doll wrestles with the peculiarities and origins of this rampant habit. Michael Erard, a linguist who was interviewed for the piece, explains, “When people talk, they use intonation in a number of varied and subtle ways…there’s a lot of emotional nuance that can be conveyed that you can’t do in writing.” Basically, the casual nature of digital communication allows us to mimic our vernacular speech patterns in a way that we previously couldn’t do in letters, articles, or works of literature. While that makes sense, it doesn’t really explain the advent of word elongation in the first place. Sali Tagliamonte, a fellow linguist, offers a salient clue to the origins of word elongation when she notes that, “women are at the forefront.”
Today, The Cut published an article on word elongation entitled “The 5 Reasons Girls Type Like Thissss.” In the article, Maureen O’Connor provides her own take on the various subsets of elongation, including the “sarcastic affirmation (riiiight)”, the “booty-call drawl (heyyyy)”, and the “gleeful E’s (wheeeee).” However, the most illuminating part of this article was the opening anecdote, in which O’Connor describes the plight of a male friend whose one-word, un-elongated emails were being interpreted as rude by his female co-workers. According to O’Connor, elongated words are a sign of politeness and added care; “when asking a favor or making a demand, extra letters soften the blow.” While it’s pretty cool that women are pioneering yet another linguistic trend (seriously guys, catch up) elongated words aren’t exactly a feminist dream. After all, isn’t O’Connor essentially saying that women often use elongated vowels to infantilize themselves, attempting to appear twee and apologetic as opposed to angry and demanding? This trend of women attempting to soften the blow of their language, be it in work e-mails or over text, is concerning, and not very cute.
Images: The Atlantic, Tumblr
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