Hormones, Peccadillos, and Other Annoyances

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December 11, 2014 by libroshombre

One of my favorite hormones was featured in a recent Mental Floss article by Jessica Hullinger titled “6 Fascinating Facts About Oxytocin, the ‘Love’ Hormone.” Oxytocin’s “released by the hypothalamus during physical intimacy, and during breastfeeding to facilitate mother-child bonding,” Hullinger wrote. “It also helps

Featured image us trust one another … But it’s not that straightforward, and many of oxytocin’s effects seem to contradict the presumption that it turns us into blubbering piles of love.” It can, for example, inhibit the brain’s fear center and encourage lying and cheating. On the other hand, dogs taking oxytocin like their owners more, and studies show it could counter “age-imposed organ degeneration” among the elderly.

“The Love Hormone,” like so many things in life, is a two-edged sword. However, it hardly registers on my Scale of Everyday Annoyances, and falls short of being even a peccadillo, or “a minor offense.” “Pecado” or “sin” in Spanish, comes from the Latin “peccare, to sin.” It’s related to the Latin “peccavi,” which means “an admission of guilt or sin.” That’s why the classically-educated British General Charles Napier sent home a one-word telegram, “Peccavi,” after conquering the Indian province of Sind in 1843.

Beyond peccadillo, and well into the gripe section of the Annoyance Scale is the increasingly mis-use of “literally.” To be “literal,” something must conform “or be limited to the simplest, nonfigurative, or most obvious meaning of a word or words,” according to the American Heritage Dictionary. Today it’s frequently uses as hyperbole to intensify a figurative expression, as in “our eyes were literally riveted to the computer screen.” An article on TheGuardian.com, “Using ‘Literally’ Metaphorically Is Literally Spreading Like Wildfire,” noted that “since 2005, Google searches for ‘literally’ have more than quadrupled … We have also seen references to ‘literally’ in books nearly triple since 1700.”

Abuses of “literally” still rank below serious Annoyances, like the “Terrible Ten Rudenesses.” This list was compiled several years ago by the Johns Hopkins University Civility Project but remains sadly relevant. Examples are “driving in an erratic or aggressive way,” “treating service providers as inferiors,” and “using cell phones or text messaging during conversations.” Other rudenesses added by commenters to the project’s website included “people who write in or otherwise desecrate library books.” Amen to that.

Other lesser annoyances are far more common, such as “vocal fry” and “high rising inflection” or “HRI.” Vocal fry’s discussed in “Vocal Fry May Hurt Women’s Job Prospects,” a TheAtlantic.com article. Author Olga Khazanmay wrote that “Vocal fry is the intereeeeeeestaaaaaaaangFeatured image(sic) phenomenon that’s grown increasingly common among young women … The effect is produced by slowly fluttering the vocal cords, resulting in a popping or creaking sound at the bottom of the vocal register.” The affectation is popular among college-age Americans of both sexes, but researchers at Duke and Miami Universities found that job interviewers “preferred a normal voice 86 percent of the time for female speakers and 83 percent of the time for male speakers.” Interestingly, recently fired “New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson was considered by some to be a paragon of fry.”

More annoying is “high rising inflection,” also known as “uptalk,” “upspeak,” and “rising inflection.” HRI’s “a feature of some accents of English where ostensibly declarative statements are uttered on a rising note of apology or inquiry,” according to Wikipedia. The speaker makes a statement, but his voice rises in tone towards the end and windsFeatured image up sounding like he’s asking a question. It’s believed that HRI first became fashionable in California around 1980, as memorialized by Frank Zappa’s daughter in his 1982 tune “Valley Girl,” but Wikipedia says now young people are increasingly upspeaking in Australia, New Zealand, and Britain.

“People Know High-Power Voices When They Hear Them,” according to a recent ScienceDaily.com article by that title. It tells how San Diego State researchers found that “Being in a position of power can fundamentally change the way you speak, altering basic acoustic properties of the voice, and other peopleFeatured image are able to pick up on these vocal cues to know who is really in charge.”

In short, lowering one’s voice is often a good idea even outside the library.

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