Sexy baby voice

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"Sexy baby voice" is an English language speech pattern or sociolect, first described by U.S. media in 2013, in which young women affect the high-pitched voice of pre-pubescent girls.


The speech patterns at issue are described as sounding "like Minnie Mouse on helium",[1] or a "mousy squeak [with a] handful of gravel tossed across the very top of the register".[2] Actress Lake Bell described the style as an amalgamation of "valley-girl voice" (characterized by "upspeak" and vocal fry) and high pitch.[1]


"Sexy baby voice" is controversial in the context of discussions about gender equality and related issues. Bell[3] and others have argued that the use of "sexy baby voice" is problematic because it demeans the speaker, who appears as a "submissive 12-year-old trying to be a sex object",[2] or because its use in film and television, as a tool of sexual manipulation, exploits contemporary culture's "fetish for adult sexuality wrapped in adolescent packages".[4]

Other commentators questioned the purpose of critiquing the use of the speech pattern, asserting that "picking at the vocal quirks of your own gender is just as much of a nuisance as harping on the bodies that belong to them".[2] Phonetician Mark Liberman wrote that it was not clear that the discussion about "sexy baby voice" referred to any identifiable speech style, instead of to a "long list" of vocal features people objected to in female speech. He also noted previous discussions about similar female speech patterns in earlier decades, such as a controversy about "uptalk" in the 1990s.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hornaday, Ann (10 August 2013). "Lake Bell talks about ‘In a World . . .’ and the politics of dialect". Washington Post. Retrieved 1 March 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Lynch, Tess (13 August 2013). "Talk Like a Woman: Lake Bell vs. 'Sexy Baby Voice'". Grantland. Retrieved 1 March 2014. 
  3. ^ Grose, Jessica (9 August 2013). "Why Is Lake Bell Dissing Women’s Voices?". Slate. Retrieved 1 March 2014. 
  4. ^ Lahey, Jessica (18 February 2014). "Why Middle-School Girls Sometimes Talk Like Babies: And how teachers can respond". The Atlantic. Retrieved 1 March 2014. 
  5. ^ Liberman, Mark (15 August 2013). "Sexy baby vocal virus". Language Log. Retrieved 1 March 2014.