How shrtong do you feel about people who pronounce /str/ as /shtr/ ?

american english pronunciationI notice that the woman who reads the sponsor ads on MPR News pronounces words with /str/ as /shtr/, for example, deshtroy instead of destroy. Michelle Obama does, too.

Are you hearing this more on Division Shtreet here in Northfield? Do you find it shtrange? When you hear it, do you want to set people shtraight? If so, what’s your shtrategy? Reshtructure their jaw? Or do you reshtrain yourself?

Here’s a comprehensive blog post about the phenomenon.


  1. Jessica Paxton said:

    Love this. I know exactly who you’re talking about and this has been driving me crazy for YEARS. I’ve also noticed that there are other female deejays on the same station that now seem to be emulating that same sound (like it’s their signature schtick). Did I mention this drives me crazy??!? Anyway, I was just recently trying to explain this to a friend of mine and I had a really hard time describing the sound — you have captured this perfectly. Very funny.

    December 16, 2011
  2. Jerry Bilek said:

    if we’re going to start worrying about pronunciation, maybe we should start with the river that flows through town or the shtreet in Minneapolis named after the Frenchman, or the Czech town to our west.

    December 16, 2011
  3. Curt Benson said:

    Griff, as long as you are scouring the planet looking for trivial things to annoy you (heh), are you aware of the “vocal fry”? This is a pattern of speech said to be popularized by the likes of the Kardashians and Britney Spears that college aged women are allegedly affecting. The last link has a clip from a Mae West movie which indicates that maybe this isn’t something new.

    Here are a couple of links with mp3 samples:

    December 16, 2011
  4. Phil Poyner said:

    Curt, I just happened to mention this on facebook yesterday. It actually reminded me of some of the vocal mannerisms used with val-speak in the early 80’s. Everything old is new again. In other words, all you kids out there, you’ll look back on this 20 years from now and say “Man! I sounded like such a tool!” And you’ll be right, just like we were when we had to say it!

    December 16, 2011
  5. Curt Benson said:

    Jessica, Jerry, Phil and Griff, all the vocal affectations listed here are said to be affected by females. What’s up with that? If males have gone through vocal fads like the ones listed here, what are they?

    I did send this link to my 19 year old daughter, who wrote back,
    “I had never heard of the vocal fry, and I had to google a bunch of videos to listen to examples and I still don’t quite hear it. Well, I hear it, but it just sounds like normal talking to me, I guess that must mean I’m a vocal fryer!”

    December 16, 2011
  6. Phil Poyner said:

    Maybe guys do catch-phrases. After all, you know many women that are willing to scream WASSSUP at each other? But out in California there have always been those guys that “do the Spicoli”, whether they surf or not!

    December 16, 2011
  7. Philip Spensley said:


    This is simply a regional or sub-cultural mispronunciation. I once knew someone who had grown up in rural southern Indiana who pronounced film as fillum. There are many such examples. I hear African Americans sometimes invert the s and k in ask so as to pronounce it as aks. I say tomahto you say tomayto. Some people lisp, oh th-ay can you th-ee … but th the sh is not a lisp…it’s simply a sub-cultural thing. But it is shloppy shpeech. A bit like using dd instead of tt in the middle of words like butter. I can live with it. Yo.

    December 19, 2011
  8. The linguistics blog Language Log has talked about so-called vocal fry, including
    They are critical of the journalism coverage, as they usually are.
    They also note the appearance of /tr/ pronounced /chr/, which is common.

    And note that the phoneme in the middle of butter is neither dd nor tt; it’s called a tap, and is the same in, for instance, in latter and ladder. It’s not the consonant that changes, it’s the preceding vowel. It’s the same phoneme as the r in the Spanish pero.

    You know there are people who actually study this stuff, and observe what we think we hear is often wrong because we are influenced by the spelling of words. In words like sing, there are neither an /n/ nor a /g/.

    December 26, 2011
  9. Phil Poyner said:

    OK, moving on to other annoying trendy things in society. What’s with the duck-face pictures? 😛

    December 26, 2011
  10. Griff Wigley said:

    In today’s Strib: To some women, ‘vocal fry’ is sizzling

    Next time you walk past a group of young women who sound like they’re growling at each other, don’t worry; it’s no catfight. It’s only vocal fry, that guttural, vibrating sound you hear when a voice temporarily drops to its lowest register.

    Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Ke$ha use vocal fry for dramatic effect in their songs. As pointedly parodied on “SNL,” Kim Kardashian is a frequent fryer. But so are more respected young celebrities like Scarlett Johansson, Emma Stone and Zooey Deschanel.

    Everyone does it occasionally. But lately, vocal fry has been creeping into the conversations of young women more often, say speech pathologists and singing instructors. A recent study of 34 female college students conducted by researchers at Long Island University in New York heard vocal fry in the voices of more than two-thirds of them, especially at the ends of sentences. The researchers speculate that the students may “have either practiced or observed this vocal register and modeled it to match popular figures.”

    January 11, 2012

Leave a Reply