As I was leaving yoga class the other day, I got chatting to one of the other class members. After a while, I realised that I was using a “voice” on her, specifically, a “gushy-uber-friendly” voice. This got me thinking about all the different types of voices we use in different circumstances.
As the youngest of four children, many of my mannerisms and speech habits have been infused with those of my older siblings – so much so that when all four of us are together I suffer a bit of an identity crisis.
When I’m with my oldest sister I use my slightly theatrical voice, because that is how she is. When I’m with my other older sister, I switch and use my philosophical voice, because that’s how she is. When I’m with both of them at the same time I have to keep switching between a theatrical and philosophical voice. Sometimes, but not always, one of them will make it easier and switch to the other one’s voice so that we’re all using the same voice. Finally, when I’m with my brother I use my “dude-all-about-the-bro” voice, because he’s a dude and a bro. He’s also a headmaster though so sometimes our voices get a bit headmasterish. Unlike his, however, my “headmaster” voice isn’t very convincing.
I good voice to start with is the “telephone voice”. I know for a fact that EVERYBODY has a “telephone” voice. Take my Dad’s telephone voice, for instance. It’s very loud. Though I’ve tried to explain that the very point of the device is so that one doesn’t, in fact, have to shout, he insists on using his LOUD voice. As you can imagine, this gets worse when he’s talking on a cell phone because as you know cell phones are less connected than landlines so you have to be LOUDER. In fact, the LOUD telephone voice is common to lots of men. Sometimes it is accompanied by what I have affectionately named “the-tea-pot-arm”. I’m not sure what purpose the elbow in the air serves but I suspect it might be some kind of make-shift antennae. You know, so you don't have to shout quite so loud.
Naturally, the type of’” telephone” voice used depends on whom you’re calling and why. If it’s a professional call, I like to sound as if I single handedly run the JSE. It’s a very “all-about-business” voice. However, if I’m phoning someone I need help from (like Telkom or M-Web), I’ll use a cross between my “business” voice and my “Being-so-nice-to-you-you-have-to-help-me” voice. This is not to be confused with a “begging” voice, which is mostly used on traffic cops. My middle older sister is very good at the “Being-so-nice-to-you-you-have-to-help-me” voice and no matter how annoyed she gets with the person on the other end, she manages to hold her “angry voice” back until after the call has ended and then all kinds of hellish potty mouth language breaks out.
Another common voice is the “nice-to-meet-you” voice. As it’s name implies, it is used most prolifically on first meetings. It’s a complicated voice to perfect - you have to project equal amounts of confidence and humility. You also have to sound genuine, which is difficult because you really don’t know if it IS nice to meet someone until you get to know them a little better.
Sometimes, people get confused and use an inappropriate voice for the occasion. This brings us to the “know-it-all” voice. This often sneaks in when people meant to use their “nice-to-meet-you” voice but their confidence has overridden their humility. However, it has to be said that this voice is definitely adopted by most people at some point and by some people all of the time. It’s generally accompanied by body language such as: wagging fingers, leaning forward, leaning back or hands on hips, or all of the aforementioned. The paradox with this voice is that it’s normally used at exactly the moment when the speaker doesn’t, in fact, “know-it-all”. As proof of this, I can’ honestly state that I have often used it can confirm that I know almost nothing about anything.
Then there’s the “I’m-not-a-complainer” voice. This is normally saved up for health professionals but can be used anywhere, not just in the doctor’s rooms. It’s a mix between a “slightly-sick” voice (you know, the one you use to phone into the office when you’re on “sick” leave) and a “sigh-that’s-just-the-way-life-is” voice. Sometimes, people are so good at this voice that you don’t realise until after they’ve gone that they’ve actually been having ONE BIG, FAT WHINGE.
The “hipster” voice is mostly used by hipsters on hipsters, on young people by young people, or on young people by old hipsters. The latter is the most funny because the old person thinks that if they use their hipster voice on young people, the young people will mistake them for being young. For optimal results, this voice goes hand in hand with appropriate young-person slang (words like “sick”, "random" and “awkies”). I try out this voice a lot and I have to say that it hardly ever works.
Last but not least, there’s voice that’s my pet hate. It’s the “fun-girl” voice and I think we all know someone who uses it. It’s generally used by a certain kind of girl who is not fun at all. She will mostly use it around blokes and the subtext is: “I’m so fun, I’m like one of the boys but so sexy that I’m irresistible”. This voice is heavily encoded with innuendos and will make use of suggestive phrases such as, “Oh dear, I forgot to put on underwear today” or “Do you think this dress is too see-through?”. Strictly speaking, all women should have outgrown this voice in their early twenties but blow me down if I don’t see full on “mature” women trying to use it. No matter how “fun” they may make it seem, don’t use this voice. Ever.