As luck would have it, I was not aware of this phenomenon till early this week. The term actually conjured up visions of green cathode ray terminals on the face of high rises , and jet pack refilling stations atop the skyscrapers. ( I admit jet packs are a weakness for me. I envision them at the slightest pretext. 🙂 )
But infact, this is something more insidious. For the uninitiated, like me- High Rising Terminals ( HRT) or “uptalk” as it is called, alludes to a manner of speaking where the sentences endings have higher frequency, or a rising intonation, like a question does. Here’s an exaggerated illustration I saw on You Tube.
Apparently, uptalk is on the rise (pun intended), among both men and women, who are now bringing it to the workplace. Sociologists call it an epidemic. An article I read quoted recent research by Pearson that shows that 85% employers dislike upspeak and associated it with insecurity. They would not promote employees who spoke with that accent. The only people who were excused were the Aussies, who apparently had a obtained a license to do so long time ago. And sure enough, one can see plenty new websites and coaches that train employees to change their career limiting inflection with assertions like “HRT is not allowed in the C Suite”.
The problem with these confident pronouncements is that, in this world of syndicated papers, and globalization, every one repeats the pithy sound bites, leaving out facts such as:
1. The research was conducted in UK, and included 700 employers. (Now, take a deep breath and think of the number of white collar employers , globally, who were NOT surveyed. See?)
2. Thomas Linneman from the College of William and Mary, who started this research originally ‘cos he had some ax to grind against upspeak , had found that the association of insecurity and the consequent impact on career was for men; girls who “upsqueaked” apparently did better. (If we choose to agree that valley girls, who were the subject of his research, are representative of all women, 50 % of the population is excluded. Aren’t they?)
3. The research did not have results from non native speakers of English, whose first language might inherently have an inflection. (That is, more than 50% of the world population are excluded. He Na?)
And why am I so bothered by it at all? I am as annoyed by uptalk, as everyone else.
But, it worries me that none of the articles I saw, asked the employers to look at themselves. Were they saying that they decide promotions not based on performance but on accents that match with theirs? Weren’t they at risk of losing talent because of their prejudice? And also because, I think it is about time that we, the general public , the mango people of the world, stopped listening to and acting on the media pundits’ version of what it takes to be successful.
Let’s just tell them : “Watch me?” or “Watch Meee”.