I was just on the phone with a very polite and gracious twentysomething lady who works for a major film-related organization. And there was a problem. I couldn’t grasp half of what she was saying. This was because (a) she had one of those breathy little mincey peep-peep voices, and (b) she used the cadences and curious tonalities of “mall-speak,” in which simple declarative sentences like “the cat ran up the tree” sound like hesitant questions, as in “like, the cat, uhm…I heard, like, ran up the tree?”

And when she kindly spelled the names of two people I need to call, she couldn’t seem to roll with the practice of pheonetic pronunciation (“e” as in elephant) so it took twice as long to get the spellings sorted out. Again partly due to that little peep-peep mouse voice. “Thanks a lot for your time and your help,” I said as part of my farewell. I meant it. She was nice. But mall-speak drives me nuts.