You know how Britney Spears sounds when she sings the “oh baby, baby” line in “Hit Me Baby One More Time”? Kind of creaky, and groan-y?

Well, there’s an actual name for that sound — it’s called vocal fry, and researchers are discovering that it’s becoming increasingly prevalent among young women. Science Magazine reports:

A curious vocal pattern has crept into the speech of young adult women who speak American English: low, creaky vibrations, also called vocal fry. Pop singers…slip vocal fry into their music as a way to reach low notes and add style. Now, a new study of young women in New York state shows that the same guttural vibration—once considered a speech disorder—has become a language fad.

They go on to note that in a recent study of 34 college-aged women (an admittedly small sample size, but still), more than 2/3 of participants did vocal fry while talking.

I’m not going to mince words here — this is a pretty awful trend. Not only is it annoying to hear women speak like that (at one point, this method of speaking was simply called “Vally Girl”), but whether Britney Spears does it or your local co-ed does it, it sounds like the person is trying to be one of three things: 1. Whiny. 2. Sexy. 3. A Kardashian. Obviously, one and three are both terrible choices.

Number two is a little more complicated. If young women are learning that vocal fry is what sexy sounds like and then trying to emulate it, they’re not exactly exploring their sexuality so much as mimicking someone else’s. And while sounding sexy certainly has its place, unless you’re Angelina Jolie starring as an international spy/femme fatale, that place is not in everyday conversation. [tagbox tag=”language”]

It’s worth noting that vocal fry used to be considered a speech impediment. Also, the reason it’s called “vocal fry” is because if you do it too much you can ruin your vocal chords. So in the interest of women maintaining their voices (interesting, isn’t it, that a speaking trend for young ladies is one that could cause them to not be able to speak at all? Put that in your gender studies pipe and smoke it), can we possibly come up with something else? Like, say, “loud and confident,” or even — I don’t know — “sounding like yourself”?