The Elmer Fud "Accent"

What causes this? Is it a speech impediment? If so what causes it?

Or is it just another way of talking?

Do other languages have it?

The English R is one of the most difficult sounds to make, according to the vast majority of my friends who have had to learn English as a second language. So it is not totally inconceivable to me that at least a few native speakers may have some sort of speech impediment, which makes pronouncing this consonant very difficult. It sounds like the same impediment that Barbara Walters has/had.

As to what causes a speech impediment, stuttering is thought to be due to a neurological disorder. I couldn’t find a name for the Elmer Fudd R syndrome, but suspect it’s either related to a minor neurological disorder or a result of a childhood hearing problem.

This type of speech impediment is common among young children and foreign speakers of English. The English “r” is a most unique sound, especially among European languages. The French/Dutch r and the Italian/Russian r’s are quite different from the English r (and IMHO, more aesthetic). Most foreign speakers of English will simply replace the English r with their native r, and vice versa, until the other language’s r is mastered. I have heard from many foreign speakers with English as a second language say that the English r is by far the hardest part of English pronunciation.

But some foreigners and most children who haven’t quite mastered the English r try to approximate it, and it usually ends up as a ‘w’ sound, being the closest phoneme in the English language (or the foreigner’s original language) to the r.

I suspect, if Elmer Fudd had a history of some sort, that it was a speech impediment from childhood that never really got cured. But IRL, the writers probably heard somebody speaking like that and thought it was funny or that it “connected” with the intended audience (young children) better.

I once had a friend who had a speech impediment (caused by a cleft palate that had been repaired, followed by speech therapy). She used to ask people if they could tell from her accent where she was originally from. Mildly sadistic, since she was, of course, from right there. The interesting part was watching people’s reactions when they learned she had a speech impediment. (“Wait, I’m not supposed to laugh – it’s a speech impediment! But she’s the one who made the joke! But it’s a cruel thing to do! But she’s being cruel to herself! Etc. Etc…”)

My nephew can’t say r and always says it as w, but he tries really hard. To quote him, when I gently poked fun at him saying “Look at those wabbits over there”.

He turned and looked at me and said “Uncle Gareth, they are not wabbits, they are w-w-w-w-w-(desparately trying to make the r sound)WABBITS!!”

Awww, bless

When my son was about 6 or 7, he too had trouble with his R’s. I wrote a short story with many R’s in it - more R’s than E’s in fact. I asked him to read it our loud, and by the time he got to the end, there was a small but noticable improvement, which got even better as he reread it in the following weeks. Take a look, and see if he would enjoy Irving, The Dirty Turtle.

JellyDonut said:

Ahh, but the intended audience wasn’t young children. The early cartoon shorts accompanied theatrical film releases. Audiences would pay their admission and get a newsreel, a cartoon or two, maybe some kind of giveaway (especially during the Depression), perhaps a preview trailer, and then the feature (not in that order). So they’d watch a Bugs Bunny cartoon featuring Elmer Fudd, then watch Casablanca or some such. The audiences were comprised of adults, and some of the jokes in those cartoons are pretty sophisticated.

Also, I don’t believe the writers came up with the voices. If Mel Blanc is to be believed (and there’s no real reason why not), the artists came up with a drawing to fit a character, showed it to the voice talent and asked, “What would he sound like?” Then the voice talent would think about the characteristics (a loud, braggart rooster, f’rinstance) and come up with a booming southern accent for Foghorn Leghorn.

Elmer Fudd’s voice was originated and performed by Arthur Q. Bryant (not Mel Blanc, until the 50s, after Bryant’s death). I have heard other radio broadcasts in which Bryant appears, and he uses the Fudd voice there as well, although he’s playing a different character. This apparently was not uncommon, as I have also heard Mel Blanc do a character called Sad Sack in war-era broadcasts, and the voice is nothing more nor less than Porky Pig.

I would assume that Bryant created this voice to fit the kind of overgrown child look and quality of Elmer Fudd, and the voice worked well enough to keep it. Elmer-like characters appear in earlier WB cartoons minus the voice (he looks slightly different as well). But the character evolved into the one which we know and (quite possibly) love.

Sorry for the hijack. My 8 year old son also has this kind of trouble with the letter R.

Foghorn Leghorn’s voice, and his character, was based on a character from the Fred Allen radio program named Senator Claghorn. If you ever get the chance to listen to any of those old shows, when you hear Senator Claghorn, you’ll say, “Hey, that’s Foghorn Leghorn!”.
I think Elmer Fudd talks that wa because he’s so fwustwated oveh not being able to catch the wabbit!

There are times when NASCAR driver Ward Burton sounds an awful lot like Elmer Fudd. He doesn’t seem to move his mouth when he talks, and he mumbles besides. It’s highly entertaining.

Elmer Fudd’s a kind of dumb character. It’s a kind of dumb-sounding voice. :shrug:

Without reference, but I believe the word you are looking for is ‘Labiovelar’.

Newly re-elected Mayor of Boston Tom Menino also speaks in a Fudd-esque manner. Downright amazing coming from a career politician.

And tonight gentlemen we present, for your dee-lec-tation, Die-rect from the Los Angeles World Fair,

Miss Lola LaVerne, and her Lovely Labiovelar!!

[boom boom ba-bomm boom
ba-boom boom ba-boom etc}

You should watch the greatest movie of all time, “The Princess Bride” During the wedding ceremony, the officiating religious leader has the best speach impediment I have heard as of yet. Elmer Fudd has nothing on this guy!!!

I knew a girl in high school that pronouced some words in a similar way, although I had never equated it to being like Elmer Fudd since she sounded quite different… trouble with the R’s and sort of an englishy accent in general. Her younger brother talked the same way. But her parents talked normally; so it seemed like something their kids had in common with each other but not them.

My sisters-in-law both have trouble with the letter R. (So, of course, their names are Dora and Doris. {They are twins.})

They were subjected to a battery of speech therapists when young, none of whom were able to help them shake it.

My wife never thought it was all that unusual. (She doesn’t share the “accent”.)

Our daughter has a similar problem, to a milder degree (although she hates being forced to attempt to say the word “world”). Speech therapy has not made a difference for her either.

Now, none of these people sound like Elmer Fudd. They do not substitute Ws for Rs. They simply don’t pronounce Rs.

I guess this was no help.

wegarding whether other wanguages have this, there is a character in Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” who talked like Elmer Fudd. His name was Denisov. Of course, I didn’t read it in the original Russian, so I can’t be certain it was there, but it seems like an odd thing for the translator to fabricate. :slight_smile:

Frank O. Pinion said:

Blanc addresses this in his autobiography, That’s Not All, Folks! Since I don’t own the book, I can’t quote directly from it, but I seem to remember him claiming that he didn’t consciously take the voice characterization from the Claghorn character, although he acknowledges that the two are similar. I seem to remember that he mentions a controversy over the voices at the time. I don’t know which came first, Claghorn or Foghorn Leghorn, and it seems suspicious that both characters are so “horny”. Still, I believe Blanc maintained that he came up with the voice independent of Senator Claghorn.

The process of coming up with the voices, as described in my previous post, is mentioned by Blanc for a couple of the characters (Yosemite Sam and the Tasmanian Devil). And the voice talent would have to have some idea of the way even minor characters looked and behaved in order to get a voice that fit right. In other words, he tailored the voice to fit the look of the character, not the other way around.

Claghorn came first. However, Warner Brothers had the foresight to file legal claim to the character, so henceforth Kenny Delmar had to get Warner’s permission to use a voice and character he himself created.

I’ve noticed that most of the Loony Toon voice characterizations are specifically deviated from normal english:

Elmer Fudd = unable to pronounce ‘R’
Porky Pig = stutter
Sylvester the Cat and Daffy Duck = lisp
Bugs Bunny = Brooklyn accent
Pepe le Pew = French accent
Speedy Gonzales = Mexican accent
Foghorn Leghorn = Southern accent
Yosemite Sam = Wild West accent

Wile E. Coyote pretty much stands alone with an accent of
a highly refined, educated accent…thus he dosen’t appear to be allowed to speak in many of his cartoons.

These characterizations are pretty much a deliberate attempt to make the characters sound as different as they look.

There’s a TV presenter here in the UK with the same speech impediment called Jonathan Ross, or “Jonathan Woss” as it comes out when he speaks.

He’s managed to make a potential handicap into a ‘trademark’ and has done very well out of it.

Being British (and bearing in mind his problems with the letter ‘R’) he tends to drop the word “rancour” into conversation as often as possible…
– Quirm