There are reasons not to rant about Rebecca Black’s viral video and song “Friday.” For one, she’s only twelve years old, and having your debut single named the worst song ever is a heck of a way to start those long, awkward teen years. But—I can’t help myself.
It’s not so much the asinine lyrics that get me, such as:
Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday
Today i-is Friday, Friday (Partyin’)
Tomorrow is Saturday
And Sunday comes after…wards
Or the faux ebonics:
We-we-we so excited
We so excited
We gonna have a ball today
Or the creepy cameo by a much older guy who raps about school busses like he’s a child predator.
It’s the accent, which with the auto-tune makes Black sound like a robot that’s holding its nose. You know, the Southern Californian accent. (Being that I live in Minnesota, I know all about funny accents, don’t you know.) Despite the painful ear bleeds listening to Black’s song caused, I must admit it made me a little nostalgic. Women who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s were surrounded by TV and movies and friends who mimicked that flat, nasal tone that made up the “valley girl accent,” or “valspeak”—the same tone “Friday” can’t escape.
And that’s really what I wanted to write about today. Linguists believe valspeak largely died out in the early 2000s. But I’m hoping Miss Black might be bringing it back.
In case the return of valspeak comes to fruition, here’s a spotter’s guide:
1. A high rising terminal. This means speakers end statements with an inflection akin to asking a question. So the statement, “‘Friday’ could be the worst song ever,” sounds like a question instead of a statement of fact.
2. The word “like” is peppered throughout most sentences, like a verbal tic. “Like” is also used to replace “said” when introducing quotations.
Example: So somebody was like, “‘Friday’ is the worst song ever.” And I, like, could totally believe that.
3. Certain phrases are drawn out for emphasis, such as “whatever” and “oh my god.”
Example: Somebody called “Friday” the worst song ever, and I was like what-ev-er.
Example: Oh . . . my . . . god. . . “Friday” is the worst song ever.
4. Speech is laden with slang co-opted from surfer lingo, like “gnarly,” “awesome,” and “bummer.”
5. Vowels are spoken with a flat, nasal sound.
To hone your valspeak spotting skills, see the video for “Friday” posted above, or watch this trailer for Clueless, which could have the best rendition of valspeak, like, ever captured on film.
And if a new wave of the valspeak revolution shall come to pass, you can always use this valspeak translator to help you survive.