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Are Women's Voices Getting Lower in the UK?
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The Times of London reports:



Women lower tone for some vocal equality with men
Kitty Donaldson

WOMEN are toning it down. A new book reveals that their voices have deepened significantly in the second half of the 20th century.

The change is revealed in The Human Voice by Anne Karpf, which details research indicating the change. It shows that when 1945 recordings of women aged between 18 and 25 were compared with similar recordings from 1993, the average pitch of the later group was about 23 hertz lower — roughly equivalent to a semitone drop.

Singing coaches and audio archivists confirm the trend. Jonnie Robinson, a curator at the British Library who specialises in dialects, said: “Women’s voices do seem to have lowered over the last 50 years.



King Lear said of his daughter Cordelia:



Gentle, and low, an excellent thing in woman.”



Assuming that Shakespeare meant “low” to mean “low pitched” rather than just as another synonym for “soft” and “gentle,” then I agree. My wife sings alto rather than soprano, and that makes her speaking voice very easy on the ears.

The downside of a deep voice in a man is that it’s hard to speak quickly and precisely. The famous BBC accent, which was first inculcated in 18th Century English public schools, allows its users to communicate quickly and transparently, even using tricky multi-syllabic words like “portraiture.” A higher pitch goes well with the BBC accent because if you are as guttural as Henry Kissinger or Arnold Schwarzenegger, it’s hard to say “portraiture” in less than about five seconds.

A quarter century ago, I went out a couple of times with a girl from Cameroon in West Africa. She said that girls in Cameroon were taught to speak with very high pitched voices and boys with very low pitched voices. Unfortunately, her unnaturally high intonation got on my nerves, so I stopped asking her out.

There seems to be a belt running from Russia south into Arabia where men tend to speak with deep voices. I don’t know if this is natural or a cultural affectation.

Perhaps the highest pitched styles are found among the Vietnamese.

I would guess that people of African descent are most likely to have deeply resonant voices, which might be related to the internal structure of the nasal cavities and the like.

That reminds me that many years ago, my wife and I were in the famous Dean & Deluca gourmet grocery store in Manhattan, when we noticed a huge middle-aged black man with a tremendously resonant bass voice and a Trinidadian accent checking out. “Hey, that’s that UnCola Nut guy, uh, Geoffrey Holder,” I told my wife.

The kid behind the checkout counter stared at Holder and stammered, “You’re … you’re …”

Holder flashed him a killer smile. “That’s right, I am James Earl Jones. But, don’t tell anyone. You see, I’m traveling in-cog-ni-to,” he replied, with complete delight in his exquisite overpronunciation of the word “incognito.” He then let out the famous “Ha-Ha-Ha” from his old 7-Up commercials, picked up his bag of groceries, and departed, leaving the kid gaping.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)