"Justified" accents and such

I’m playing catch up with this excellent series, presently in season two. I’ve always been interested in regional accents and speech patterns and am wondering if:

  1. Are the accents being used in this series regionally (Kentucky) accurate to any extent? If not, who is screwing the pooch?

  2. Is the style of speaking of, say, Boyd Crowder and some others common to the South or of this area in particular? This style of speaking is exaggeratedly polite and stilted. The words used are of a possibly higher social strata than one would expect the characters to have originated from.

An example would be something like: “I have come to the conclusion in this conversation that your expectations have not yet been met regarding the impending incarceration of my father.” A lengthy substitution for “You ain’t arrested my pappy yet and you’re mad about it.”

So nobody watches this, or nobody speaks Southern?

Walter (Boyd Crowder) Goggins is from Birmingham Alabama so whether or not his Harlan Kentucky accent is accurate, he’s not unfamiliar with Southern in general.

The speechifying conceit is certainly a chosen style of the show. I’m guessing who won’t find many people in Harlan making those speeches than you would have in Al Swearengen era Deadwood either, but it makes for good TV.

Maybe I’m misremembering, but I don’t think it’s all the characters who speak like this, just some of the ones who are smart or trying to appear smart. Boyd is fairly intelligent, and the dialogue is a little fancified, but fits coming out of his mouth. I don’t remember the stupider characters like Dewey Crowe speaking in SAT words.

But I agree with fiddlesticks, that the “speechifying conceit” is just some stylization for the show.

Yes, it’s a stylization, but I don’t think it’s entirely unfounded. I can’t speak for Kentucky, but I have encountered–very, very rarely–this sort of pseudo-courtly usage among older, relatively educated folks in Louisiana and Texas. Sometimes such circumlocutions are intended to be gentle or discreet; couching things in elaborate language to disguise the blunt reality or even to confuse less educated listeners as to what, exactly, is being discussed.

More often, though, it’s for insulting someone*. The more elaborately, excessively polite it is, the bigger the insult. In the South, framing insults with kind words is practically an art form–“Bless her heart” is perhaps the best known example. There’s also an element of one-upmanship to it, by using ten-dollar words to flaunt a presumed educational advantage.

As I said, though, I’ve heard it rarely. It could simply be individual pomposity, as opposed to anything that could be called a dialect.

*“No, sir, I simply sought to advise you. Had I meant to insult you, I would have handed you a dictionary first, as a courtesy.”

Ah, “courtly” was the word I was looking for. I already knew about the sticky-sweet “bless his heart” being a euphemism for “he’s a moron”. The style works for Boyd, who has some smarts. It’s funny when Dickie Bennett tries it, as he mucks it up more often than not. I’m in awe of Stephen Root’s acting ability. I actually had to check to make sure that the guy playing the judge is the same guy who played Milton Waddams in Office Space.

Don’t forget Stephen Root as Jimmy James in the late great Newsradio.

Seeing as the show is Graham Yost’s baby, and that he is the head writer, I expect that the way the speechifying conceit is quite deliberate, for Graham is a Canadian from Toronto.

I would just add that in the movie “Long Gone” (1987), this device is used by Henry Gibson and Teller(!). I also seem to recall Kennan Wynn using it in “Finian’s Rainbow,” and Leon Ames (Col. Foxhall) in “The Beverly Hillbillies.”