An Atlanta woman's lilting, vocal fry-inflected uptalk has earned her fame — and infamy — as she ended a three-game run on classic game show "Jeopardy" Nov. 24.
Laura Ashby first attracted attention on Nov. 6, her initial appearance on "Jeopardy." Twitter users were quick to jump on her odd affectation, which was especially pronounced when Ashby was selecting categories on the game show.
But Ashby was quickly forgotten about as the show took a two-week break from normal play to air its annual Tournament of Champions. It wasn't until Thanksgiving week, when Ashby returned as champion during "regular play" on the Nov. 23 show, that she started to truly go viral.
Stories in USA Today and The Huffington Post centered on the apparently mysterious origins of Ashby's accent, while other stories were less charitable.
"Is this woman the most annoying 'Jeopardy' contestant ever?" asked a headline on FoxNews.com.
As Ashby continued to win games and return as champion, Twitter users gleefully mocked her uptalk and vocal fry. The vocal fry register is most commonly associated with reality TV stars like the Kardashians.
Journalist Naomi Wolf once famously described the vocal affectation as a "guttural growl at the back of the throat, as a Valley girl might sound if she had been shouting herself hoarse at a rave all night."
Actresses like Scarlett Johannson and Zooey Deschanel are often blamed as standard-bearers of the vocal fry, which academics worry could undermine women in the workforce because the affectation can be mistaken for a lack of confidence, NPR reported.
Posts about Ashby's distinctive speaking style have taken over a popular "Jeopardy" subreddit and the IMDB page for the long-running game show, while Twitter users continued to have fun with Ashby's vocal tics.
"It's mesmerizing. At first I was confused. Then I was sad. Now I'm fascinated," actor DJ Qualls tweeted, including a Vine clip of Ashby selecting clues during the Nov. 23 game.
"Jeopardy" fans who liked Ashby's vocal tics were disappointed on Nov. 24, when the Atlanta native ended her three-game run, including two games as champion.