Annoying Speech

When did the annoying manner of speaking with every statement sounding like a question start…and why? For example:

Caller: “Hello, my name is Megan and I drive a '97 Honda Civic…?” What the hell, is she asking you if her name is Megan and if she’s driving a Civic?

This seems to be the way everyone under 50 speaks. Always that upward inflection at the end of every statement.

Thanks for your time…?


What does thine post have to do with horseless carriages? Perhaps, thou wishes all thy countryfolk continue to speak in this fashion?

Language evolves, get over yeself.

Kindest Regards,

Someone under 50 who gets annoyed by old folks thinking if it’s not the way they did it - it’s wrong.

[b][i]I Know, Right ?

It Bugs The #&^% Out Of Me, Too ![/i][/b]

That and what about starting every phrase (sentence) with the word “So.”


This is called ‘valspeak’, short for valley girl speak, originating in California. Lots of info here:

and here:

I agree, irritating. And fashion does not equal progress.

Oh, and “Kindest regards” is obnoxious in the context of the previous message. Neuumann5 should learn that broadside criticism is no way to get their point across.

Neumann’s response got him 5 stars for some reason I must point out. My question mark involves people that post with an answer to something that was discussed on the show and they don’t preface with something like, “This is how I feel about what was discussed on the show that aired on Feb 21st”. Some people simply blurt out a statement with no linkage provided to what they are commenting on

Just because something seems to be a certain way in your perception, doesn’t mean that it actually is the way it truly is.

If you can’t tell if someone is actually asking you a question or not, then you should clarify that with them. “Hi Megan. Is there something about your Civic that you need help with?” should be able to get the additional information you need, under most normal circumstances.

It would be nice if everyone spoke and wrote on the same level, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon, unfortunately.

But please, don’t try to lump me in the same group of people as the type you described, just because I’m under 50. I take pride in being able to talk and write in the manner that I do, in comparison to society at large.

I made the most that I could out of my NYC Public School education.


I am also annoyed by that same type of speech, but I beg to differ that it is characteristic of “everyone under 50”. Those who are more professional, more mature, and better-educated are less prone to that type of speech pattern. That type of speech pattern is, indeed, part of the “Valley Girl” speech affectation that became popular back in…the '90s, IIRC.

I do believe that this annoying speech pattern is very common in those who are under the age of…perhaps 35 or so, but I have heard it in some older folks. About 10 years ago, in a business meeting, one 40-ish woman’s dissertation on a particular topic was so filled with virtual question marks that another–younger–woman in the meeting finally responded by saying, “Are you asking us or telling us, Kathy?”

This affectation is extremely annoying, as is the tendency to begin a tale with the word, “so”, but I strenuously disagree with the opinion that these speech patterns represent an evolution in language. Actually, they represent a de-volution of our language!

Thanks for the “Valley Girl” link. Here’s an excerpt:

Frequent use of high rising terminal is common in valspeak. Statements have rising intonation, causing normal declarative language to appear to the listener as interrogative. This is also known as “uptalking”, and is similar to the Australian Questioning Intonation (or AQI).

Ever hear David Feherty, the PGA tour announcer? I think he’s Australian. The AQI explains it.

Thanks for all the comments. I’m surprised at how little flak I took on this complaint.

I think the “rising intonation” at the end of the introductory sentence–similar to asking a question–is meant to make the speaker come across as disarming. The opposite would be “My name is Meagan…and I drive a '97 Civic,” which sounds officious.

There are plenty of “unofficial” nuances to language, either particular to a generation or a region. I grew up where lowering the intonation at the end of a questioning sentence indicated a rhetorical question. Example: “You’re going out like that?”, with the italicized word having a lowered intonation, translates to “You aren’t seriously going out like that, are you?”

I grew up believing this to ubiquitous, but have since learned it’s “Pittsburgheese.”

I have heard this speech all around the country dateing back to the 70’s in wisconsin. It is just something that happens. You can look at it this way. It could be a neutral inflection, a rising inflection or a dropping inflection. Take 300 million folks about 200 mill of which never go more than 60 miles from home and mix. It is not “val speak” in terms of origin. But if thats your name use it. I have heard it in canada, pennsilvania, wisconsin, and south dakota, at the very least.

Here is a second one that gets to me, “the internal combustion engine is just an air compressor at heart”. My complaint is the over simplification of the ICE ( I am using the ICE as an example but it could be quite a few different devices or even a situation) by the use of the word “just”.

Angry person beating on your door, “I JUST want to talk”. I reply “based on your demonor I don’t believe that is all you want to do”. Over use of the word “just” is my point.

Just deal with it? Sure there are corrections that can be made every day all over the English language, sure we have nucular, tomaotoes or potatoes, but my favorite is sherbert, It is shebet! My god man there are important issues to deal with and to loose your focus (not the car) by getting hung up on little stuff, takes away from the major issues, like the destruction of collective bargaining rights for unions in WI.

I don’t think there is anything that the average guy dreads hearing more than “we need to talk”.

“to loose your focus (not the car) by getting hung up on little stuff…”

If your focus is loose, perhaps it needs to be tightened.

Thank you for illustrating one of the most puzzling linguistic mistakes nowadays.
Years ago, most people seemed to know the difference between the words, “loose”, and “lose”.
Nowadays, it seems that the majority no longer know the difference.

And, to cite my other pet language peeve, why do so many people now think that the two words, “a lot”, are one non-word–“alot” (sic)?
It has gotten so bad in this regard that I have actually seen some people using an even newer non-word–“alittle” (sic).

Whatever happened to the correct English that these folks were taught in elementary school?

My favorite western PA word is “pop”; pronounced “puop”. Don’t y’uns love it, too? (I know that you understand the vernacular, mj75f, but the others may not)

Ubiquitous…wasn’t he a Greek scholar?

I agree… if it’s his wife saying it.

I find it irritating but it’s the content of the heart and not the difference in tongues that counts.

Or his mistress.

I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the inflections in their words, but by the words in their inflections.

(sincere respects to the late Dr. Martin Luthor King).

This showed up in my inbox today:

[i]What Happens in Vagueness Stays in Vagueness

The decline and fall of American English, and stuff[/i]
I recently watched a television program in which a woman described a baby squirrel that she had found in her yard. ?And he was like, you know, ?Helloooo, what are you looking at?? and stuff, and I?m like, you know, ?Can I, like, pick you up?,? and he goes, like, ?Brrrp brrrp brrrp,? and I?m like, you know, ?Whoa, that is so wow!? ? She rambled on, speaking in self-quotations, sound effects, and other vocabulary substitutes, punctuating her sentences with facial tics and lateral eye shifts. All the while, however, she never said anything specific about her encounter with the squirrel.
Uh-oh. It was a classic case of Vagueness, the linguistic virus that infected spoken language in the late twentieth century. Squirrel Woman sounded like a high school junior, but she appeared to be in her mid-forties, old enough to have been an early carrier of the contagion. She might even have been a college intern in the days when Vagueness emerged from the shadows of slang and mounted an all-out assault on American English.
My acquaintance with Vagueness began in the 1980s, that distant decade when Edward I. Koch was mayor of New York and I was writing his speeches. The mayor?s speechwriting staff was small, and I welcomed the chance to hire an intern. Applications arrived from NYU, Columbia, Pace, and the senior colleges of the City University of New York. I interviewed four or five candidates and was happily surprised. The students were articulate and well informed on civic affairs. Their writing samples were excellent. The young woman whom I selected was easy to train and a pleasure to work with. Everything went so well that I hired interns at every opportunity.
Then came 1985.
The first applicant was a young man from NYU. During the interview, he spiked his replies so heavily with ?like? that I mentioned his frequent use of the word. He seemed confused by my comment and replied, ?Well . . . like . . . yeah.? Now, nobody likes a grammar prig. All?s fair in love and language, and the American lingo is in constant motion. ?You should,? for example, has been replaced by ?you need to.? ?No? has faded into ?not really.? ?I said? is now ?I went.? As for ?you?re welcome,? that?s long since become ?no problem.? Even nasal passages are affected by fashion. Quack-talking, the rasping tones preferred by many young women today, used to be considered a misfortune.
In 1985, I thought of ?like? as a trite survivor of the hippie sixties. By itself, a little slang would not have disqualified the junior from NYU. But I was surprised to hear antique argot from a communications major looking for work in a speechwriting office, where job applicants would normally showcase their language skills. I was even more surprised when the next three candidates also laced their conversation with ?like.? Most troubling was a puzzling drop in the quality of their writing samples. It took six tries, but eventually I found a student every bit as good as his predecessors. Then came 1986.
As the interviews proceeded, it grew obvious that ?like? had strengthened its grip on intern syntax. And something new had been added: ?You know? had replaced ?Ummm . . .? as the sentence filler of choice. The candidates seemed to be evading the chore of beginning new thoughts. They spoke in run-on sentences, which they padded by adding ?and stuff? at the end. Their writing samples were terrible. It took eight tries to find a promising intern. In the spring of 1987 came the all-interrogative interview. I asked a candidate where she went to school.
?Columbia?? she replied. Or asked.
?And you?re majoring in . . .?
All her answers sounded like questions. Several other students did the same thing, ending declarative sentences with an interrogative rise. Something odd was happening. Was it guerrilla grammar? Had college kids fallen under the spell of some mad guru of verbal chaos? I began taking notes and mailed a letter to William Safire at the New York Times, urging him to do a column on the devolution of coherent speech. Undergraduates, I said, seemed to be shifting the burden of communication from speaker to listener. Ambiguity, evasion, and body language, such as air quotes?using fingers as quotation marks to indicate clich?s?were transforming college English into a coded sign language in which speakers worked hard to avoid saying anything definite. I called it Vagueness.
By autumn 1987, the job interviews revealed that ?like? was no longer a mere slang usage. It had mutated from hip preposition into the verbal milfoil that still clogs spoken English today. Vagueness was on the march. Double-clutching (?What I said was, I said . . .?) sprang into the arena. Playbacks, in which a speaker re-creates past events by narrating both sides of a conversation (?So I?m like, ?Want to, like, see a movie?? And he goes, ?No way.? And I go . . .?), made their entrance. I was baffled by what seemed to be a reversion to the idioms of childhood. And yet intern candidates were not hesitant or uncomfortable about speaking elementary school dialects in a college-level job interview. I engaged them in conversation and gradually realized that they saw Vagueness not as slang but as mainstream English. At long last, it dawned on me: Vagueness was not a campus fad or just another generational raid on proper locution. It was a coup. Linguistic rabble had stormed the grammar palace. The principles of effective speech had gone up in flames.
In 1988, my elder daughter graduated from Vassar. During a commencement reception, I asked one of her professors if he?d noticed any change in Vassar students? language skills. ?The biggest difference,? he replied, ?is that by the time today?s students arrive on campus, they?ve been juvenilized. You can hear it in the way they talk. There seems to be a reduced capacity for abstract thought.? He went on to say that immature speech patterns used to be drummed out of kids in ninth grade. ?Today, whatever way kids communicate seems to be fine with their high school teachers.? Where, I wonder, did Vagueness begin? It must have originated before the 1980s. ?Like? has a long and scruffy pedigree: in the 1970s, it was a mainstay of Valspeak, the frequently ridiculed but highly contagious ?Valley Girl? dialect of suburban Los Angeles, and even in 1964, the film Paris When It Sizzleslampooned the word?s overuse. All the way back in 1951, Holden Caulfield spoke proto-Vagueness (?I sort of landed on my side . . . my arm sort of hurt?), complete with double-clutching (?Finally, what I decided I?d do, I decided I?d . . .?) and demonstrative adjectives used as indefinite articles (?I felt sort of hungry so I went in this drugstore . . .?).
Is Vagueness simply an unexplainable descent into nonsense? Did Vagueness begin as an antidote to the demands of political correctness in the classroom, a way of sidestepping the danger of speaking forbidden ideas? Does Vagueness offer an undereducated generation a technique for camouflaging a lack of knowledge?
In 1991, I visited the small town of Bridgton, Maine, on the evening that the residents of Cumberland County gathered to welcome their local National Guard unit home from the Gulf War. It was a stirring moment. Escorted by the lights and sirens of two dozen fire engines from surrounding towns, the soldiers marched down Main Street. I was standing near the end of the parade and looked around expectantly for a platform, podium, or microphone. But there were to be no brief remarks of commendation by a mayor or commanding officer. There was to be no pastoral prayer of thanks for the safe return of the troops. Instead, the soldiers quickly dispersed. The fire engines rumbled away. The crowd went home. A few minutes later, Main Street stood empty.
Apparently there was, like, nothing to say.
Clark Whelton was a speechwriter for New York City mayors Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani.