What was Billie Burke's accent in Dinner et Eight?

Not in one sentence, no–other than repeating the title. It is very much an essay, having multiple parts. But I did watch it when it came out, so I can summarize what I remember.

  1. The mid-Atlantic accent was not fake, but actually describes the upper class New England accent. The people who wrote a book on it were describing an existing accent.
  2. The movies that do use it usually star upper crust characters. They used different accents for other characters. (Think Mr. and Mrs. Howell on Gilligan’s Island. They used the accent because they were rich New Englanders.)
  3. Most supposed examples of the accent in movies are not actually the same accent. They say things differently. Some are even a Southern accent.
  4. Many stars who are supposedly the epitome of the accent will use different accents in different movies. People cherry pick.
  5. Most of the claims are just people repeating the Wikipedia article. Even experts in accents repeat it without checking to see if it’s true.
  6. He backs all this up with tons of clips. He has clips of the accent from before the book was written that supposedly created it. He has clips of regular people talking. He compares clips from movies, even isolating fragments to show they are pronouncing things differently.

And, upon quickly skipping through the chapters, I remember he also covers the myth that the accent is some high pitched, nasal thing because of the recording equipment of the time “had no bass.” He disproves both parts with a single clip of a lower voiced person using the accent.

People just seem to assume that, because the accent sounds affected today, it must’ve been fake back then, too. But the same can be said of Received Pronunciation in Britain. RP was also a real accent, even though people did also learn to fake it.

(Yes, Gilligan’s Island came out a lot later than "Old Hollywood. I’m not even sure if Dr. Lindsay used that example. But it’s something everyone here knows and gives you the idea.)

Thank you. Did I see a clip of Kate Hepburn in that video claiming that’s how she really talks, and that’s how her family talked? Seems somewhat believable.

Anecdotal aside: my family is from the American South and a lot of them are very rural people, but some are well educated and quite citified. My grandmother, great-aunt, and their aunts all spoke with a pretty affected accent I now identify as Tidewater Virginia, but when I was tiny I actually thought they were English. My belief is that family subset, who’d all been to college and seen the world, taught themselves to speak very properly in order to consciously (and snobbishly) distinguish themselves from all the hicks in the family like me and my mom.

If I ever think of EEH, it’s as the narrator of Fractured Fairy Tales in Rocky and Bullwinkle. (The TV show, not that horrible live-action movie.)

And perhaps for the first audible fart joke in American cinema

He does indeed have an interview with Hepburn herself explaining where her accent comes from. She mentions both her parents and her school elocution lessons, which were common at the time. (Though it isn’t clear how much of it was learning diction, or accent.)

You could argue that accents taught in school are “affected”, but it had nothing to do with her being an actress. It was just how schools taught the educated upper class people were taught to speak. And they were being taught by people who also spoke that way in everyday life. It wasn’t “made up.”

The actual history of the Mid-Atlantic accent is basically that upper class, educated people originally kept trying to speak in a British accent, because that was a prestige accent. But, over time, it became its own thing, sounding more American.

BTW, I (and many of my friends) had our accents changed by school, too. I distinctly remember that I had the PIN–PEN merger. But, as part of teaching us how to read using phonics, the teachers were insistent that they were sounded different. They also tended to discourage more ruralisms.

I don’t have that merger anymore. It feels wrong if I deliberately add it back, like I’m faking a more hillbilly accent. I’m not affecting anything. It’s just how I naturally speak.

Sounds like John McCullough (note: not really him but someone impersonating his ravings)
I think it is the Mid-Atlantic accent like Kelsey Grammer speaks with

It seems that in Oz, the good witches have Transatlantic accents, the bad witches Midwestern. To further complicate things, hansom cabbies have Cockney accents, but service technicians also have Transatlantic:

I know exactly what you mean. My dad (despite living in California since he was 6 yos) had a lot of Mid-Westisms in his speech. I hated how he said “greazy” and “warsh.” I taught myself to say “greasy” and “wash,” and my siblings made fun of me. But soon they were talking like me. If I tried to go back to those speech patterns, I’d feel fake.

“Warsh” is a Midwesternism? I was born and raised in Minnesota, and I never heard that.

I did, however, have a PolSci professor who invariably said “Warshington,” and she was a product of an East Coast college, as I recall.

I was told it was a Midwesternism.

Ah, rhotic mysteries. According to the internet, it’s a Midwesternism. But also an Alabama-ism. Or Atlanta-ism. Or Appalachian-ism.

My friends from Atlanta used that exact word, and it’s the only place I ever heard it, so I have an anecdote on my side.

Whereever it’s from, it grates on me!

If you consider Missouri to be Midwest, it is. But even here, the pronunciation varies between “warsh” and “worsh.”

My family has a letter that an ancestor wrote home during the Civil War. Not only did he pronounce “father” as “farther”, but he also spelled it that way.

He was from Tennessee.

I picked up a nasty case of Chicago vowels during my years there which I still have, but it never once crossed my mind to say “warsh.” I think it’s a ruralism, a thing just as likely to be heard in Wyoming as the woods of Minnesota or in the Ozarks. That’s a whole 'nother topic: in the U.S. there definitely seem to be some commonalities to various rural accents regardless of region.

Well, my dad was born in Akron (left when he was six – with his immediate family), and his family had been in Ohio for maybe 120 years by then, so I considered that accent Midwestern.

A fun anecdote that may be germane to the topic: in 1949, showrunners were recasting the radio drama I Love a Mystery. Tony Randall obtained an audition, and lusted after the role of Doc, a loudmouthed Texan. He figured that as a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma he was a natural for the part. So he read a few sides as Doc, but he couldn’t find his Oklahoma drawl. He had worked so diligently on his elocution lessons that he no longer could believably produce the cadences of his youth.

Finally, he shook the pages in his hands with frustration and cried, “Oh, I just cahn’t do it!”

And was immediately cast as Englishman Reggie York.