The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > Cafe Society

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 08-13-2009, 09:22 AM
BKReporter BKReporter is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
What is Julia Child's accent?

She was born and raised in Pasadena, Calif., but I've never met anyone from California who talks like her. To me it sounds like Jon Stewart's impression of Queen Elizabeth (helllllooooo). So what is her accent? Have you ever met anyone who talked like her?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 08-13-2009, 09:36 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: NoWA
Posts: 48,445
Pasadena was a very posh area when Julia Child was born, and she was born in a well-to-do family. I have the impression that at the time the wealthy and educated placed special emphasis on elocution. So I would call her accent 'Upper-class American', and that it was enhanced by her high voice.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 08-13-2009, 09:45 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: NoWA
Posts: 48,445
Make that 'Upper-class, Early-20th Century American'.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 08-13-2009, 10:21 AM
Hazle Weatherfield Hazle Weatherfield is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Seriously, for the longest time, I thought she was British! I couldn't believe that she wasn't.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 08-13-2009, 10:38 AM
Captain Amazing Captain Amazing is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Posts: 23,139
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
Make that 'Upper-class, Early-20th Century American'.
Right. For comparison (and another woman who had a similar accent, see Eleanor Roosevelt.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 08-13-2009, 12:29 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 22,282
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hazle Weatherfield View Post
Seriously, for the longest time, I thought she was British! I couldn't believe that she wasn't.
I didn't know she wasn't until 10 seconds ago. She may just have had a made up aristocratic accent like the Kennedys.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 08-13-2009 at 12:29 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 08-13-2009, 12:33 PM
robby robby is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Connecticut, USA
Posts: 4,485
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagnasty View Post
I didn't know she wasn't until 10 seconds ago. She may just have had a made up aristocratic accent like the Kennedys.
Same here. I had no idea she was American until this thread. Go figure.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 08-13-2009, 12:39 PM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: The Middle of Puget Sound
Posts: 16,823
The Kennedy's had an aristocratic accent?

There used to be an east-coast upper-class accent that has almost completely vanished. William F. Buckley, Katherine Hepburn, FDR, and others are examples. It was influenced by english accents, but it was it's own thing, and marked the person as born and bred to the elite. People without it might have money and power and connections, but they weren't a member of the club.

That's all gone now, and members of the elite tend to speak newscaster english. Compare Christopher Buckley's "normal american" accent to his dad's idiolect. Julia Child was one of the last people to grow up speaking that way, but her idiolect went off in a whole different direction.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 08-13-2009, 12:41 PM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
I Am the One Who Bans
Moderator
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Brooklyn
Posts: 77,223
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
Make that 'Upper-class, Early-20th Century American'.
For examples on film ... well, old film, of course ... you could try Margaret Dumont in a Marx Brothers movie. I don't think she sounds like Julia Child but to our ears, it sounds refined and sort of foreign.

Jon Stewart's Queen Elizabeth voice sounds like one of the voices Robin Williams tries while playing in drag in Mrs. Doubtfire.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 08-13-2009, 12:44 PM
Typo Knig Typo Knig is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
The first time we saw Dame Edna Everage on TV, Mama Zappa said "Oh my God! Julia Child is a *man*!!"

I knew one woman whose accent was a very mild version of Julia Child's, but I don't know where that woman grew up.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 08-13-2009, 12:49 PM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: South Carolina
Posts: 12,567
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lemur866 View Post
William F. Buckley, Katherine Hepburn, FDR, and others are examples.
I think you can add George Plimpton to that list, too.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 08-13-2009, 12:50 PM
BKReporter BKReporter is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
I guess Barbara Walters would be another person whose accent sounds quasi-British, even though she's American.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 08-13-2009, 12:52 PM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
I Am the One Who Bans
Moderator
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Brooklyn
Posts: 77,223
Quote:
Originally Posted by BKReporter View Post
I guess Barbara Walters would be another person whose accent sounds quasi-British, even though she's American.
She speaks that way to overcome a speech impediment, though, so it's not really the same. I don't know much about her background.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 08-13-2009, 01:18 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: NoWA
Posts: 48,445
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagnasty View Post
She may just have had a made up aristocratic accent like the Kennedys.
It depends on your definition of 'made up'. As I said, and as others have cited, there was a particular accent prevalent among the elite.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 08-13-2009, 01:19 PM
muldoonthief muldoonthief is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: North of Boston
Posts: 7,185
deleted

Last edited by muldoonthief; 08-13-2009 at 01:20 PM.. Reason: never mind
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 08-13-2009, 01:27 PM
jsc1953 jsc1953 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
The Kennedy accent is Boston; but possibly an upper-class variation thereof.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 08-13-2009, 01:43 PM
gwendee gwendee is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Charm City
Posts: 3,445
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marley23 View Post
For examples on film ... well, old film, of course ... you could try Margaret Dumont in a Marx Brothers movie. I don't think she sounds like Julia Child but to our ears, it sounds refined and sort of foreign.

I thought of Pheobe Dinsmore, the Diction and Elocution coach in Singin' In the Rain. My grandmother and her sisters, whose family wasn't even close to being as affluent as Child's all had such lessons, along with instrumental and vocal music lessons, and dancing lessons.

We used to have play tea parties and we (my grandmother, great-aunt, sister, and I) all had "great lady" alter egos and we spoke in a similar way. She often shared tips from those lessons, or a recital piece memorized 45 years earlier.

One set of my grandparents grew up with 2 different regional accents. They were very conscious of not wanting to sound like "rubes" or "hicks". They carefully eliminated the accents. They didn't go as far as adopting the Katherine Hepburn speech pattern, but definitely equated their original accents with sounding less refined.

I don't think they arrived at that conclusion without some help from the surrounding culture.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 08-13-2009, 01:58 PM
Mama Zappa Mama Zappa is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 9,801
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hazle Weatherfield View Post
Seriously, for the longest time, I thought she was British! I couldn't believe that she wasn't.
Too true!

About 15 years ago, I was watching TV with my mother-in-law. The show featured Dame Edna
.

And I shouted "That's it!!!! Julia Child is a MAN!!!!!".



Having posted this, I see that my spouse just posted the identical anecdote

Last edited by Mama Zappa; 08-13-2009 at 02:00 PM.. Reason: Shoulda read the whole thread!
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 08-13-2009, 02:03 PM
Lantern Lantern is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Mid-Atlantic is the usual term for the accent being discussed here. Perhaps Kelsey Grammer is one of the few prominent contemporary examples.

Why it's died down is an interesting question. I would imagine it was primarily nurtured in elite private schools which are still around. Probably the growing influence of mass media over the course of the 20th century as well as a steady increase in social mobility played a big role in its decline.

Last edited by Lantern; 08-13-2009 at 02:04 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 08-13-2009, 02:28 PM
Voyager Voyager is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Deep Space
Posts: 34,453
I always heard it as aristocratic Bostonian - not Irish Bostonian like the Kennedys. You know, the Cabots speak only to the Lodges, and the Lodges speak only to God. That might have come from the fact her show came from WGBH, but I lived in Boston for four years and didn't change my mind.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 08-13-2009, 02:31 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: NoWA
Posts: 48,445
Quote:
Originally Posted by jsc1953 View Post
The Kennedy accent is Boston; but possibly an upper-class variation thereof.
To be clear, I was addressing the 'made up' suggestion and not asserting that the accent was similar to Kennedy's.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 08-13-2009, 03:17 PM
Markxxx Markxxx is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Chicago,IL
Posts: 14,962
My folks were from Yugoslavia. My mother came directly to America and my father came via the UK. So my father spoke "British" while mum spoke "American." They moved a bit so my sisters and brothers leaned "New Zealand."

The result was that while I was born in America and raised here, unlike the rest of my family, I would pick up very weird speech patterns.

It was most evident in my use of single words, but I would get sent to "speech" class because of it.

Not being around my family for almost 30 years I've lost almost all my speech patterns as a kid, but I still get people asking me from time to time, if I'm from America, just because I still use words you don't hear in America (such as "strueth")

Point being, that often times people will pick up ways of speaking, perhaps Julia went to boarding schools or such. If you remember the "Beverly Hillbillies," Miss Jane was a Vassar Grad and for the first few years of the series Nancy Kulp acted the part with a distinct accent one would assume as "upper crust" so to speak. In otherwords Miss Jane was educated and her speech showed it. Though this element to the Miss Jane character was lost as the show progressed.

In comedy it's implied Julia spoke that way 'cause she was a drunk. Or at least used way too much wine in her cooking. Of course this is for comedy only not based in reality
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 08-13-2009, 03:26 PM
YogSosoth YogSosoth is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Oh my god, she's American??
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 08-13-2009, 03:39 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Portlandia
Posts: 28,428
To me she sounds like somebody with a baritone voice who is artificially altering it to sound more feminine.
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 08-13-2009, 04:12 PM
devilsknew devilsknew is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: The Great Black Swamp
Posts: 9,178
Maybe, Julia has one of those "fusion" accents? She spent a lot of time overseas in British company; Her later experiences in France might have influenced her accent as well. As a child, she also had a Family Cook that hailed from New England. It would be worth noting where Julia Child's childhood cook came from in New England... that might help clarify some of the accent.

We had a thread abouit Top Chef Miami Micah Edelstein's accent that reminds me of this thread. It is also interesting to note that Micah has an English degree like Julia.
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 08-13-2009, 04:38 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Tampa, Florida
Posts: 69,282
I recall an SNL skit -- "Swivel Chair Mystery Theater" -- where everybody talks with an exaggerated Northeastern upper-class accent.
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 08-13-2009, 06:18 PM
rocking chair rocking chair is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
i just figured she had the east coast boarding school accent. a lock jaw new england that could be pushed to old england easily. i was surprized to learn she was from california as she sounded very new england.

she did have an odd pitch to her voice for her size. her size gave her voice a lot of volume and depth, but a really odd high note. from her size you would expect more of a kathleen turner low note.

she does sound remarkably like eleanor roosevelt.

the best part of cooking with someone ( or alone narrating for the fur faces) is doing wacky julia child impressions!
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 08-13-2009, 06:44 PM
MPB in Salt Lake MPB in Salt Lake is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Salt Lake City
Posts: 4,331
Does anyone remember the time on Letterman (back when David Letterman was still worth watching) when Julia Child was a guest, along with Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir (Grateful Dead)?

It was an exceptionally odd pairing, and Letterman was cracking wise the whole night, asking Julia about eating Czechoslovakian angel dust and following the Grateful Dead around in a rasta VW microbus.............

Julia took all this king-high weirdness in stride, and was a good sport; I have ever since been a fan.

(and now in rememberance of Jerry and Julia, I am off to grak some rhino tranquilizer, washed down with a good bottle of bordeaux)
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 08-13-2009, 08:09 PM
Face Intentionally Left Blank Face Intentionally Left Blank is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by robby View Post
Same here. I had no idea she was American until this thread. Go figure.
Ignorance fought here as well. Weird accent. . .no worse than some New England accents though, I suppose.
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 08-13-2009, 08:22 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
Charter Member
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Marmite Free Sector
Posts: 17,553
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
Pasadena was a very posh area when Julia Child was born, and she was born in a well-to-do family. I have the impression that at the time the wealthy and educated placed special emphasis on elocution. So I would call her accent 'Upper-class American', and that it was enhanced by her high voice.
If you think of Lovey Howell on Gilligan's Island, that makes a lot of sense.

In spite of the smog, inland heat, and little if any access to ocean depending on traffic, there are still areas of extravagantly large, traditional houses there as well as in adjacent San Marino. I suspect if you wanted to look for old money in Southern California, you'd find a lot of it in Pasadena.
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 08-13-2009, 08:28 PM
freckafree freckafree is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
I started a thread about the "upper crust" accent (citing Margaret Dumont and Eleanor Roosevelt as examples) a while back, and Dopers cited the Locust Valley Lockjaw.

I don't think that describes Julia Child (or Magaret Dumont or Eleanor Roosevelt), but it certainly does other mentioned in this thread.
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 08-13-2009, 08:44 PM
pabstist pabstist is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Julia Child graduated from Smith College in Northampton Massachusetts in 1934. It may have affected her accent, as has been pondered about the whole New England thing? Is there a womens Ivy League College accent?
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 08-14-2009, 12:00 AM
dropzone dropzone is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Cloud Cuckoo Land
Posts: 22,961
Quote:
Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
I always heard it as aristocratic Bostonian - not Irish Bostonian like the Kennedys. You know, the Cabots speak only to the Lodges, and the Lodges speak only to God. That might have come from the fact her show came from WGBH, but I lived in Boston for four years and didn't change my mind.
Yes, REALLY! The Kennedys? Give them a couple more generations and they can be "parvenus." You KNOW how Joe Kennedy got his money, right?


ETA: OOOOH! My magical 15,000!

Last edited by dropzone; 08-14-2009 at 12:02 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 08-14-2009, 02:19 AM
Zebra Zebra is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
With the advent of sound, Hollywood felt that the lead actors should not have a regional American accent. (unless you were a comedy relief) They felt this would make the movies easier to sell nation wide.

There were voice and diction coaches readily available.

Moses supposes his toeses are roses, but Moses supposes erroneously,

I'm not saying that people starting losing their accents because of Hollywood. People 'in society' always spoke with that type of accent. If you wanted to enter society, then you had voice and diction classes.
Reply With Quote
  #35  
Old 08-14-2009, 03:02 AM
Starving Artist Starving Artist is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lemur866 View Post
There used to be an east-coast upper-class accent that has almost completely vanished. William F. Buckley, Katherine Hepburn, FDR, and others are examples.
Not quite. William F. Buckley had nine siblings and none of them spoke with the same accent he had, which was an odd admixture borne of his unusual childhood education. His family lived in Mexico when he was a very young child and Spanish was his first language. (His son has said that Spanish was the chief language used in his father's Manhattan duplex, due in part to the fact that so many of their hired help were Spanish themselves.) Then Buckley spent a short time in Connecticut before moving to France, whereupon French became his second language. He didn't begin formal training in English until he was seven years old and beginning several years of Catholic education in England.

So technically, Spanish was Buckley's first language, French was his second and British English was his third, although his English accent did come to be influenced somewhat by his eventual upper-class life at his parents' home in Sharon, Connecticut. His was a unique and hypnotic accent that was the result of wide and varied educational and environmental experiences rather than one attributable to upper-class, east-coast American life.

All of which stands to make what was his extraordinarily rich vocabulary all the more impressive, IMHO.

Last edited by Starving Artist; 08-14-2009 at 03:07 AM..
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 08:05 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.