the visitors were shrill

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jacdac

Senior Member
Lebanese
The phone would ring occasionally, and Mummy would say, ‘Good morning, Martina Lamb Associates.’ Sometimes a visitor would be buzzed in via the intercom–my sister and I fighting over whose turn it was to press the button. The visitors were shrill, very thin women who only wanted to talk about clothes and famous people. There were no ‘associates’, just our mother and the occasional wide-eyed teenage girl on work experience.
source: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewel

When you describe someone to be shrill, you are referring to their loud and noisy voice/behaviour, right? Martina is a rich socialite and I couldn’t envisage her female customers to be shrill. What is your interpretation of: she is shrill?

Thank you.
 
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  • Logos_

    Senior Member
    English - America
    The phone would ring occasionally, and Mummy would say, ‘Good morning, Martina Lamb Associates.’ Sometimes a visitor would be buzzed in via the intercom–my sister and I fighting over whose turn it was to press the button. The visitors were shrill, very thin women who only wanted to talk about clothes and famous people. There were no ‘associates’, just our mother and the occasional wide-eyed teenage girl on work experience.
    source: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewe
    Thank you.
    The visitors might have been shrill because of their loud, high, piercing voices, their loud demanding/obnoxious behavior, or any combination thereof.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    When you describe someone to be shrill, you are referring to their loud and noisy voice/behaviour, right?
    Their loud, high-pitched, unpleasant voices. I wouldn't use shrill to describe anything other than the quality of their voices.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Shrill doesn't mean loud, it means unpleasantly high-pitched in quality and tone. It's the opposite of relaxing and mellow. Someone with a shrill voice would not be a good storyteller.

    There's also this definition:
    annoyingly insistent or demanding;
    strident: their shrill demands for change.

    This could apply to people but doesn't seem to fit here.
     

    Logos_

    Senior Member
    English - America
    Shrill doesn't mean loud, it means unpleasantly high-pitched in quality and tone. It's the opposite of relaxing and mellow. Someone with a shrill voice
    (especially of a complaint or demand) loud and forceful.
    "a concession to their shrill demands"
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Yeah, that's the second definition. But it's talking about demands, not people. The OP seems to be about people who aren't making demands. And shrill doesn't exclude loud, it just doesn't have that primary meaning when describing people.
     

    Logos_

    Senior Member
    English - America
    But it's talking about demands, not people. And shrill doesn't exclude loud, it just doesn't have that primary meaning when describing people.
    But who is making the demands? Almost certainly people. You said it doesn't mean loud. That could confuse someone into thinking it does exclude loud. The passage at hand requires us to make inferences: If the people were described as shrill, they might have been loudly demanding, since that is one of the possible meanings of shrill.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Martina is a rich socialite and I couldn’t envisage her female customers to be shrill.
    Nevertheless, she said that they were. :) Your impression of what her customers were like does not accord with hers. They spoke in loud, high-pitched voices about clothes and famous people.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    For me, the bottom line is your voice can be shrill without being loud and your voice can be loud without being shrill. It depends on the situation. Someone's voice can grate on your nerves even when they are speaking at normal volume.
     

    Logos_

    Senior Member
    English - America
    A voice can also be grating without being shrill. A voice can also be very high without being shrill. What we've established is that shrill is clearly a meaningless word that can never be applied to any actual situation. I'm kidding. OP, look it up in a dictionary and apply it to the context of the passage. That's all there is to it.
     
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