Teenage speak and beyond

Richard Vallis rvallis at OPTONLINE.NET
Thu May 31 21:11:12 UTC 2007

There is a kind of learned patois regularly spoken mainly by  teenage girls in the past few  decades ( who in many cases continue to speak it well into their 20's and 30's)  that was best exemplified  by Lorraine Newman's "valley girl" character on "Saturday Night Live" in the 70's.

 In what appears to be an attempt at speech sophistication, the adolescent girl (and occasional guy) characteristically distorts the vowel sounds, especially  the  "e" as in the word best.  Best becomes "bast" or "bost" or "bus."  Better becomes "batter" as the mouth opens wide to accommodate this apparently classy way of enunciating.  Other vowel sounds are similarly affected by the sophisticatedly wide open mouth.  Bush becomes "bahsh" and on it goes, endlessly.  What's more daunting, is that the individual continues this distortion into post adolescence and beyond when a young person's apparent need for "fitting in" and peer pressure would seem to be diminished.

Television personalities and actors have generally been purged of it, but it maddeningly rears itself, wide-mouthed, in commercials.  What's surprising is that most listeners don't seem to notice the bend in pronunciation until it's pointed out to them.

 I've done a Google search and, no matter what search parameter I supply, I don't find a reference to it.

I wonder if you would be so kind as to point me to any studies or references to this pattern.  It has fascinated me for years but, alas, I have found no one to corroborate it.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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