If you’re a fan of the Golden Era of Hollywood, you’re probably familiar with the Mid-Atlantic accent (also known as the Transatlantic accent). It’s not quite British, and it’s not quite American. Characterized by soft British vowels and sharp T’s, this accent was everywhere in the early to the mid-20th century.
The mid-Atlantic accent, or Transatlantic accent, is a consciously acquired accent of English, intended to blend together the “standard” speech of both American English and British Received Pronunciation. Spoken mostly in the early twentieth century, it is an affected set of speech patterns whose “chief quality was that no Americans actually spoke it unless educated to do so.”
The accent is, therefore, best associated with the American upper class, theater, and film industry of the 1930s and 1940s largely taught in private independent preparatory schools, especially in the American Northeast and in acting schools.
Many actors adopted it starting out in the theatre, and others simply affected it to help their careers on and off in films. Another reason that it was adopted by actors in the 30s and 40s is the fact that the origin of the language is hard to pinpoint. It was a mystery.
After the accent’s decline following the end of World War II, this American version of a “posh” accent has all but disappeared even among the American upper classes. Subtle traces can be detected to this day, mostly among older generations hailing from wealthier pockets around east coast cities such as Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia.
Learn all about the nuances of this developed accent in this fascinating and informative video below. I may watch a few older movies this weekend and see if I can pick up the accent myself.