by Jill Greenwood

Because it sure as hell sounds like you are asking a question, but I really don’t know what the answer might be.

Anyone else annoyed as shit by “upspeak,” that mind-boggling bat-shit crazy driving method of speaking where the speaker ends every statement with a rising inflection? So it sounds like everything is a question? Even when it isn’t? And they are probably just stating a fact? Like Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me” might be the greatest song ever?

Really?! I surely can’t be the only person annoyed by this. I’ve listened to countless interviews in which a person isn’t asking anything, but I wanted to jump in and say, “Don’t bring that inflection up! I have no idea what you are asking!” This first drove me to the brink in the mid-90s. We lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the time, and you would encounter it in stores where there were a ton of college girls (and apparently college and teen-age girls are on the cutting edge of vocal manipulation). But now, it’s everywhere. My own girls did it for a while, but thankfully they didn’t keep it up for very long. Yesterday, I heard a story on NPR about arsenic in rice, and all I could do was focus on the reporter’s upspeak as she talked about the rising levels of a known poison in baby food. Nice! I’m focused on her voice (fingernails on chalkboards) while she’s talking about the safety of our food (click on the link to access the audio file).

And sadly, as with most irritants this month, this post lacks a photo . . . because how do I photograph someone’s voice? Turns out I can’t. But I can leave you with a little bit of Justin Bieber love. You’re welcome?



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  1. September 20, 2012

    I’m laughing thinking how often sentences sound like questions. Could it be that folks need reassurance that what they say is correct?

    • Jill #
      September 20, 2012

      I have not idea, but it drives me insane. Sometimes my students start to talk like that, and I tend to mimic their speech. They will turn to me and say, “You know, that sounds really dumb,” to which I reply, “I know . . . so stop it!”

  2. Kate #
    September 20, 2012

    Man, you hit the nail on the head with this one! I can’t STAND that crap! Especially when someone is e-mailing you? and/or their FB status? is full of question marks? Talk about lack of self-confidence!

    • Jill #
      September 20, 2012

      Another pet peeve: multiple punctuations!!! Seriously, these things might be free, but there’s no point to spread them around like VD. But the constant questioning makes my teeth itch.

  3. September 20, 2012

    Haha! You’re welcome? is right.

    • Jill #
      September 20, 2012

      Thank you? So much fun . . . but so, so wrong.

  4. September 20, 2012

    This reminds me of something I learned in a Linguistics class one time – that Midwestern girls do this far less than woman in other areas in the US. They lower their voice at the end of sentences to sound more “manly”. That’s the theory, anyway. I find it strange that a woman on NPR spoke that way… I thought they were supposed to sound intelligent?! 😉

    • Jill #
      September 20, 2012

      I’ve listened to other reports from her, and she’s done this forever and a day. Hell, I get garbling language since my generation adopted “like” as its filler, but I was appalled yesterday listening to that report.

  5. September 20, 2012

    That drives me crazy?

    • Jill #
      September 20, 2012

      I knew I would find kindred spirits . . . and not a single comment loving the Bieb either.

  6. September 21, 2012

    I constantly ask my daughter “is that a question?” It makes me nuts…another thing I hate is the follow-up, “I know, right?” The double whammy!

    • Jill #
      September 27, 2012

      I can’t take “you know what I mean?” in the middle of a sentence. Probably because I DO you know what you mean 🙂

  7. Melanie #
    September 22, 2012

    Ahhhhhh, someone finally feels my pain!! HUGE pet peeve of mine too- I’m thankful to you for putting a name to this annoyingly bad habit, that is sadly way too common among today’s generation. My own 12 year old included, argh!.

    • Jill #
      September 27, 2012

      I find myself lapsing into an uptick every now and then, but nothing like a full blown question. My pet peeve that my daughters did was “prolly” instead of “probably” because that’s just lazy. And don’t even get me started on “me and my friends” because that shit ain’t gonna end well (all grammar and word usage intentional).

  8. Becky #
    September 27, 2012

    Here’s a comment for you loving the bieb. since reading this it’s been on constant rotation in my house. And I could write a whole feminist dissertation about how much i love the rap part in the middle. thanks for this one. keep ’em coming? (sorry couldn’t help it)

    • Jill #
      September 27, 2012

      That middle part comes on and I just smile from ear to ear. I can’t find a single thing wrong with the song . . . love it! And I’m predicting with enough alcohol? I’ll talk like this? All weekend long? And annoy the shit out of myself!

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