Why do people in old movies speak funny?

Someone asked me this in one of my classes today.

The accent they mentioned is the Transatlantic or Mid-Atlantic accent, very common in movies from the 1930s and 1940s. It was also common among American heiresses married into aristocratic British families. I sometimes have a bit of an in-between accent myself. My South African accent has become milder over the years of not being surrounded by South Africans, and I also have to have a neutral accent when I teach, to prevent all my students from learning to speak English with South African accents.


Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

2 thoughts

  1. The one that surprised me is Matthew Rhys in The Americans, he’s from Cardiff South Wales and when interviewed he speaks with a distinctive Welsh accent. Yet never a trace of it in the six seasons of The Americans where he plays a Russian KGB agent living in Washington DC alongside his ‘wife’ played by Keri Russell.
    Quite a talent I think.

    My own accent is much diluted compared to how strong it used to be!! If I went home for a few days it would come back again!

    1. Yes that happens to me too – two days with my family – who have very strong Saffa accents – and I sound just like them! I have to admit to not being a fan of the SA accent. Maybe we all have a weird relationship to our own speaking voice.

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