who on your team is a trendsetter?

05/01/2012

by anne lueneburger

 

Question: What two linguistic innovations have been re-purposed by American teenage girls from stodgy Brits keen to signal superior social standing in the 60s and Aussies immigrating to California in the 80s?

Answer: uptalk and vocal fry.

There was a great article in the New York Times recently on linguistic trendsetting. All of us have noticed that teenagers have their own, like, verbal communication. Totally!  Vocal fry is that raspy or croaking sound added (often) at the end of a statement. Uptalk denotes the raising of the voice towards the end of sentences. It’s as though you are asking a question?  When, in fact, you are not?  Like vocal fry, it’s a linguistic innovation and was launched by a demographic not typically considered the leading influencer of the broader population. And yet CEOs have been known to slip into uptalk in quarterly update calls. If that is not enough, the filler word “like” has been used by presidential candidates without syntactic function.

What’s interesting about these phenomena is who originates ideas and who recognizes and re-purposes them for mainstream use.  It’s frequently not those who have the strongest networks (and power), but those most eager to build them.  Whether a 16-year old girl or the new and seemingly innocuous member of your team, do you know how those around you shape not only your environment but the framework you yourself use to navigate it? What are some of the intentional and subliminal messages these movers and shakers are sending? And what are ways you could leverage this knowledge and have these trendsetters help you achieve your goals more effectively?

It’s, like, toooooootally interesting?

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