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Old 12-26-1999, 11:05 PM
theuglytruth theuglytruth is offline
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I just got done watching newsreel footage on TV from the 30s and 40s and I SWEAR people talked differently back then.

Now I heard the theory that announcers talked funny because of the speed of the film, but I say people talked differenntly back then!

My fiancee who is a news repoerter tells me that announcers were told to talk differently then, not accenting the "r"s etc (ie the South Park episode with the black and white footage of Nazi Germany with the announcer saying "Adolf Hit-LA was a ve-y, ve-y, naugha mon!"

What DID people sound like back then? What about Southerners in, say the 1850s? Did they have the dame accents that southerners do today?

Did Americans have British accents in the 18th century?????

Old 12-27-1999, 12:18 AM
Koxinga Koxinga is offline
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Some random thoughts occur to me:

(1) I read somewhere that when they were working on the Tennessee Valley Authority project in the 1930s, government workers ran across isolated villages in the Ozarks (? or somewhere else?) that had been largely cut off from society. Villagers reportedly spoke identical dialects to whatever colonial English was supposed to have been two centuries earlier.

(2) I've never heard anyone talk like the recordings of FDR that I've heard. What kind of accent did he have?

(3) I've also read that the dialect that was spoken by Benjamin Franklin and others has somehow migrated westward and can now be heard in Oklahoma or some other Midwestern state.

Old 12-27-1999, 10:21 AM
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RealityChuck RealityChuck is online now
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Regional accents were more prevalant in the days before radio and TV, since the only people you heard were those around you. Nowadays, people pick up their accents from television, so everything has become more homogenized. Even the "southern" accent is less noticeable than it was 30 years ago, and may eventually vanish.

"East is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does." -- Marx

Read "Sundials" in the new issue of Aboriginal Science Fiction.
Old 12-28-1999, 09:22 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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Before the days of movies, radio, and TV, there was no "Standard American" accent in the sense we use the term today. The closest thing to it was an upper-class Eastern accent. That's what Franklin Roosevelt was speaking in the newsreels, and it's what elocution teachers taught people who wanted to "lose their accent".

In those days, in American elocution classes you were taught to speak in an accent that to a modern ear sounds like some mixture of an upper-class New York or Boston accent and an upper-class British accent. This wasn't too far off from what Roosevelt (born in New York and educated at Harvard) spoke anyway.

As movies, radio, and TV became more common, there began to be a notion of Standard American English that wasn't so class-based. Something closer to the most common American accent began to be considered as the standard American accent. This is the accent that's spoken in much of the Midwest and the West. It's always been my contention that the purest version of this accent is spoken in rural northwest Ohio - to be exact about two miles northeast of Mt. Cory, Ohio, which, hey, just happens to be where I grew up.

Seriously, it seems to me that my accent is pretty close to what is now is considered Standard American English, and that certainly can't have started as a class-based accent. Most of my ancestors were ignorant hicks.

I recall reading that there was some rear-guard action by speech teachers in New York (in the '40's, perhaps?) as it became clear that Midwestern American English was becoming the standard. They insisted that the r-ful accents of the Midwest were just dialects while the r-less ones of New York were standard.

Essentially all of the currently common accents in the U.S. existed in their current forms in the early 20th century. The main difference is how these accents are treated socially. The one exception may be some of the Californian accents. I suspect that some of their distinctions may have arisen during the middle 20th century. Even these are older than we might think. I remember a co-worker telling me that as a teenager in the early '50's in Southern California, he recalls using the term "bitchin'".

Doghouse Reilly writes:

> I read somewhere that when they were
> working on the Tennessee Valley Authority
> project in the 1930s, government workers
> ran across isolated villages in the Ozarks
> (? or somewhere else?) that had been
> largely cut off from society. Villagers
> reportedly spoke identical dialects to
> whatever colonial English was supposed to
> have been two centuries earlier.

Something like this is a common myth. A claim is made that the accent spoken in isolated portions of the Appalachians or Ozarks or wherever is supposed to be identical to English as it was spoken several centuries before. This is wrong on two counts. First, several centuries ago English had just as many different accents as it has today. Different accents today reproduce features from accents of centuries ago.

Second, it doesn't appear to be true that there are such things as archaic accents. Every modern accent has kept some features of the older language and changed some others. People think that there is such a thing as an archaic dialect because they hear a dialect spoken that is considerably different from the one that they speak. They notice a few features in it that (as they can tell from old books) have been kept in this dialect but not in the one that they speak. They don't bother to notice that their own accent has kept some older features which have dropped out of this other dialect.
Old 12-28-1999, 09:56 AM
fuzzy-wuzzy fuzzy-wuzzy is offline
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As with most languages...when you have a mixing pot.....words are picked up...others are discarded. Even being from the south...I can tell differences in just people from different parts of the state. And of course, we have been experiencing the onslaught of Northerners moving south....but I think there will always be a southern drawl.
Old 12-28-1999, 10:36 AM
Doobieous Doobieous is offline
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I noticed that people in the 40's tended to pronounce things a bit more clearly than we do today. I notice also a very slight british type accent in the way many people spoke back then.

Anyway, In California, I am starting to notice the accents more. I saw a program on TV that talked about the regional accents of the US and when they mentioned California, I really started to notice it. IIRC,they said Californians tend to draw out their vowels. From my experience, Southern californians tend to round their vowels a bit more than Northern Californians do. Maybe we do it the same up north, and I have a bias since I am from the very far north end of Central California .
Old 12-28-1999, 05:06 PM
John Corrado John Corrado is offline
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Doobieous said:
I noticed that people in the 40's tended to pronounce things a bit more clearly than we do today. I notice also a very slight british type accent in the way many people spoke back then.
Are your observations drawn from news footage of regular people and politicans, or from the movies of the time? If it's from the movies, keep in mind that people who wanted to be 'serious' actors on the stage or screen took classes to lose their accents, and to enunciate more clearly.

-JMCJ (Who is from Maryland, which means my accent sounds like a cross between Virginia southern and New Jersey. Youse all come back now, y'hear?)
Old 12-28-1999, 05:32 PM
Konrad Konrad is offline
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I remember on the old Disney cartoons the narrator would always sound a little strange. Slightly more of a British accent than what Americans have now.
Old 12-28-1999, 06:32 PM
Ezstrete Ezstrete is offline
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On the island which includes England,Scotland and Wales there are about a dozen different major accents with all speaking the same language.There are a great many more minor or sub-accents

There is no "real English accent".

The one we hear on the radio or on television is known as BBC english and is taught as a separate manner of speech.

In that respect it is much like mandarin chinese----- a language supposedly understood by all citizens and spoken by very few.

Among the brit"Upper Classes"one can identify a persons schooling by the accent he has----that is Etonians do not speak as Cambridgers do and the grads of Sandhurst are something else!

In colonial times the population included English,French,Portugese,Spanish,native,scandinavian and German etc. So the probability of someone speaking " English" was a throw of the dice.

That's why the answer to how americans speak,or spoke, is----as americans
Old 12-28-1999, 07:01 PM
Ursa Major Ursa Major is offline
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When listening to old Mercury Theater recordings (and Welles movies) I've always been struck by how modern Joseph Cotton sounded. Welles always sounded like a mumbling preppy.

I would guess that California led the way to what we now consider the "modern American accent" (TV/Radio accent). California has consistantly drawn migrants from every state in the union since the 1850s.
Old 12-28-1999, 09:21 PM
Road Rash Road Rash is offline
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Old southern accent, "Can I please have a cold beer". New southern accent, "Cervesa fria por favor".

I especially hate the way television portrays the people from Houston as being twanging hicks. You have to get to the suburbs of Houston to hear that. I assume this is true of most cities over 70-80,000 people. People ask me where's my drawl? Sheesh, I grew up inside a big city where most people are not natives. Many are not natives of the U.S.

I know people who are from Brooklyn and NONE of them talk like Bugs Bunny or Loius the Budweiser lizard (although I have met people from New Orleans who sound like that).


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